I am so excited to introduce my special second “Guest Blogger” today, my precious friend Amanda Perry! If you remember from some of my posts, Amanda run her first Marathon this past July and I asked her to share with me and all of you her running/life journey story story. Be ready to get immerse to a very inspirational and incredible story that gave me chills! Enjoy the ride…
The Power of Words – Shifting Energy
One Mile at a Time
“I could never do that, never ever.” Every word we utter, or think, becomes an action; so, when we say “never” this is exactly what we receive. As Buddha once reflected, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” Without even knowing it, we become not only our own negative phrases, but also our negativity becomes stronger every day as it is reinforced by the negative energy all around us. Sound depressing? That’s because it is – but it doesn’t have to be! Shifting from the negative to the positive takes practice, and giving ourselves the love and energy we need to fully become the best version of ourselves takes even more time. Some people may say, “Why bother, what’s done is done, this is just how I am” but alas, becoming so self-critical and giving into the labels placed upon us by others didn’t happen overnight, moving towards our positive selves is an evolution. What a beautiful thought – the evolution of self. This can be a passive process, whereby you simply sit back and watch yourself drift this way and that, or it can be purposeful. How? How can you become positive, the best version of yourself, and mindful in all you do? Let me share a little story with you…
Below is a picture of me in high school; I was an exceptionally athletic person and was accustomed to coming in first place, including winning the 800m at the California State Games in ‘96 and winning the 300m hurdles at the CIF Championships my senior year. At the end of the season, fear began to set in. What if I had already peaked with this race? What if this was all I had to offer? I subconsciously made the decision to slowly let go of my love of running out of fear of not being able to compete at the collegiate level. I remained active, running on my own, playing and coaching soccer, and taking dance classes, but left competitive track and field behind me with that final race.
I created the label “has been” for myself and would usually joke around about how I left my ability to win with my youth. Which brings me to my next point about the power of names and stories. In my professional life I am a Social Worker, and utilize many of the concepts and tools of Narrative Therapy, which is a collaborative, therapeutic process that empowers people through the use of stories and the language we use to describe both ourselves and our contextual environments. Usually people’s stories are “problem saturated,” or are told from a negative point of view and will include words like “always” and “never,” such as “I’ll never be able to run a marathon.” Narrative Therapy facilitates the individual’s capacity to shift language from fatalistic to more hopeful, erasing derogatory labels (either self-inflicted or given to us by others) and can lead to a person feeling more in control of her life. Imagine the details of your story shifting from “I can’t, I’m no good at, I am not capable of” to instead focusing on your hopes, dreams, goals, commitments, talents, and desires. With our words come change in action; for instance, part of my narrative for the past ten plus years has been, “I used to be a good runner; I’ll never be able to compete again; I could never run a marathon.” And it probably would have remained this way had I not been inspired to evolve.Sometimes it takes inspiration to push us off that ledge, take that leap, and press on. Sometimes it’s not inspiration, but rather a nagging sensation, just pulling at our very being and screaming that it needs to be given permission to try…to just try and take one step in the direction of that which we always thought we could never do. Almost always (sometimes always can be used in a positive light!) though, one thing is certain about the evolution of self: having an uplifting support network to gather round,
be your wings, silence self-doubt, and cheer you on not just from the sidelines, but from right by your side is absolutely critical. On a recent trip to northern California, I visited Muir Woods – home of the coastal redwoods, which are the tallest of all living things (the tallest is 258 feet at this location!). There is wisdom nestled within this old growth forest, and I learned that redwoods’ root systems are not deep, but rather run wide. As such, redwoods “know” that they need to grow close to one another because they are apt to be knocked down by high coastal winds without the support of one another. Who are the redwoods in your life? Who stands by you, protecting your roots and supporting your efforts to grow tall and strong?
Back to my story…I was not only inspired, but also was carried by my very own circle of redwoods. Almost every Friday night I would have dinner with Natascia and family and she would mention that she was running 12, 14, 18 miles the following morning. I remember thinking, “I could never do that. She is amazing.” It’s not that I wasn’t physically capable of this feat (I recognize that some people do have physical limitations that would prevent such high mileage), but rather what was holding me back was my narrative and negative thoughts! Natascia gave me the gift of inspiration just by being herself, and each week as her mileage increased, I began to notice a transformation within my own self-talk and the “I could never” turned into “maybe I could,” and I started running on a regular basis again, and signed up for a half marathon, my first ever. It seemed like such a huge leap, because even 5 miles was a stretch for me at that point, but I had inspiration and my support network to give me the strength to jump off that ledge of self-doubt. My goal was to finish the half marathon – I finished and did so with vigor! The following Spring, Natascia ran the Boston Marathon and afterwards asked me if I was now inspired torun a marathon. I said I was definitely not inspired.
Remarkably, I signed up for the San Francisco Marathon just a couple weeks later, and started training right away. Running a marathon had been on my bucket list for quite some time, but I wouldn’t allow myself to even think about it for fear that I might never be able to achieve it and would then live with this sense of failure. If you don’t dream it or try it, then you’ll never fail, right?! Wrong. I was letting myself down by living in fear and not allowing myself to go after something I knew in my core that I wanted. In “7 Lessons from 7 Great Minds,” blogger Eric Allen Bell reflects upon overcoming fear, “If we make a commitment to an uncompromisable quest for truth, we will realize that as we grow more into the truth, our fears start to disappear.”
This quest was solidified when additional inspiration came my way from my mom who signed up to complete the San Francisco Half Marathon. Weekly we could check-in and give one another encouragement to keep up with our training schedules. See, the funny thing about inspiration is that it creates a ripple effect. Natascia inspired me so I signed up for the marathon, then my mom signed up for the half, then my dad started going to the gym with my mom as an official member of her fan club, and a woman my mom works with started walking to help my mom train, and who knows who else was positively affected! What we do and how we lead our lives matters not only for our own health and well-being, but for the collective consciousness and well-being of everyone around us – our energy carries across thousands of miles to people we don’t even know, but whose lives we can touch in a meaningful and life affirming way.
With every long training run completed, my anxiety would decrease and suddenly 9 miles wasn’t scary, and neither were 12 or 14. However, I still was susceptible to “imposter syndrome,” or the inability to recognize my accomplishments. Friends would remark on how wonderful it was that I was getting back into running and working towards this goal, running 30+ miles each week and I would respond with, “Pssh,” as though it was really nothing to take pride in. I didn’t feel like a real runner, but then on my flight out to San Francisco, just a week before the big race, this quote in a running magazine stood out: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FAKE RUNNER. I felt a huge release, I felt ten plus years of letting myself down, regrets, negative self-talk, unfulfilled dreams just melt away into oblivion; I felt like the best version of myself. I felt like my self-worth as an athlete and a person didn’t have to be measured by pace, place, or splits. The mental block and negative energy that had been brewing for years suddenly felt as light as the clouds passing by that airplane window. I am REAL and I am empowered by knowing that I can be happy with this version of myself that is no longer a top competitor, but rather a person who can visualize a dream and go after it with conviction. Wherever I was at, was darn good enough, because our best is always good enough!
I evolved, am still evolving, into a woman of strength not counted by how many medals or titles I have obtained, but by regaining respect for myself and my abilities, by how I had achieved something great just by going after my goal. I no longer have to compare myself to those ultra-athletic, super sheik, dressed in all the right running gear, talking in runners lingo, “real runners.” I knew that I wouldn’t just finish the marathon, no, I would run it with a joyful, grateful heart and a huge smile on my face, for I had arrived at the place I wanted to be – proud of myself. And I did it one mile at a time.
Amanda, as always you leave me speechless! Other than I am so lucky to have met you and to have you in my life. You go on about how I inspire you, but you truly are an inspiration not only to me but to everyone that you touch every day in this world.