On Monday, April 17th, I ran the Boston Marathon. This was my second Boston Marathon, the first I ran in 2018. Many of you will recall I set out to qualify for Boston this year as a way to celebrate and commemorate the 5th anniversary of the stroke I had just six weeks before running in 2018. Qualifying and running Boston this year was my way of really stepping back into running, paying homage to the growth and work of the last five years, living without fear, closing a chapter on my stroke, and taking forward lessons that have helped me to live bigger.
The weather defined the 2018 marathon; some of the worst weather in the history of the Boston Marathon, cold winds, and icy rain ran with us the whole way. This year what defined Boston for me was the ability to soak in and revel in the experience, the sights and sounds, and high fives from the incredible crowd that lined the entire route to support us and cheer us on. What defined Boston for me this year was the choice I made to experience the journey and not simply focus on the finish line.
I have found myself pondering the meaning I am making from this experience and thinking about the choices we have in creating meaning from our experiences. I have been mulling over our ability to rewrite and reinvent our meaning with the passage of time and the collection of new learnings and experiences in life that allow us to see the past differently. In the moments and days since crossing the finish line, I have found myself teetering between feelings and sensations of joy, contentment, pride, accomplishment, disappointment, loss, sadness, and emptiness now that the marathon is over. My training hadn’t gone as I’d hoped, and the weeks leading up to race day had left me weary, anxious, and disappointed as my pace seemed to slow the harder I concentrated and tried to run faster. I tried to let go of expectations for a personal best or a Boston-qualifying time at Boston, though in the back of my mind, I secretly, not so secretly, hoped I might surprise myself.
On the morning of the marathon, the bus from the hotel to the buses that would take runners to the start in Hopkinton was full. I found myself taking an Uber with another runner I’d taken up with at the hotel. A new connection was made. In the line for the bus, I conversed with another woman waiting to run. I met up with a neighbor also running; we took a photo to commemorate the moment and rode the bus together from Boston Commons to the staging area for the start of the race. I savored the opportunity to get to know her better and relished the calming effect the conversation had on my nerves. When I last ran Boston, the weather was so bad there was no staging at the start of the race; the corrals we’d been assigned were forgotten, and we were simply told to run. This time on race day, I paid attention to the experience of staging and all the volunteers there to support our endeavor – I’d had no idea there was a school where the buses dropped us off or that we would walk over a mile from the school to the corrals at the start line or that there would be so many stations with water and food.
Usually, as I begin a marathon, my ambition and competitive nature set in, and I do my best to begin forging my way to the front of the pack, the finish line solely in mind. I found myself instead holding back, observing, paying attention to my pace, and intentionally maintaining rather than pushing. The last time I ran Boston, I couldn’t remember any details of the towns we ran through; I couldn’t even recall the infamous Heartbreak Hill or when I’d climbed it. This time, I found myself recording every detail, taking every opportunity to high-five the many, many adorable children who lined the course with their parents to cheer us on. I paid attention to the mass of runners in front of me that never thinned out; as I crested a hill, the sea of runners stretched in front of me all the way up the next hill. I stopped to hand off an unnecessary jacket and gloves to my husband and said hi to my parents and kiddos, who were able to come out to watch and greet me along the streets of Framingham. Last time I didn’t get to see my soggy cheer crew until the finish line. I noted that Heartbreak Hill doesn’t come until after mile 20, making an uphill climb all the more challenging both mentally and physically. I appreciated that my last experience in Boston gave me a sense of excitement and curiosity to help conquer the climb. At the finish line, which I crossed in good spirits and even with smiles, I took a photo and offered to take photos for other runners to celebrate reaching this goal. I crossed at 4 hours and 8 seconds, found my family, cleaned up, and changed clothes in a porta-potty, and off we went to continue our explorations of Boston, ending the night back at Fenway Park for the 27th Mile Post-Marathon Party. I felt gratitude that I crossed the finish line with the energy and physical ability to keep going.
In the days following the marathon, I have found myself in this state of post-race blues, struggling with disappointment that I didn’t get a better time, frustration that my watch died at mile 23, and thoughts of how I could have and wish I would have just shaved off 9 more seconds to cross the finish line under 4 hours. And I have also had moments of bliss and gratitude that I felt good at the finish line, pride and accomplishment that I took the opportunity to enjoy the experience, savor the course, and I still finished at the 4-hour mark, remembering why I set out to run Boston again in the first place – not to set a personal record but to bookend a life-altering experience. My mind has been going back and forth between the perfectionist and the recovering perfectionist, the part of my inner voice that has always told me I can and should do better, be better, and the part I’ve been retraining myself to hear the voice that says, “Well done! That was awesome!” My 2-year-old daughter has been an incredible inspiration; her inner voice is an encourager, and I not only hear her encourage herself, but I am also often greeted in the morning with “Good morning, mommy! You go for a run? Good job, mommy-bear!” I am a firm believer these days that we are the authors of our stories, we are the ones who shape our narratives, and we can take charge of our inner monologues. I also want to acknowledge that old habits die hard; the struggle is real. I think I will choose to take forward the view through the lens of gratitude, accomplishment, overcoming, satisfaction, and joy, but I feel it is also necessary to acknowledge the other lenses through which I have viewed my experience of the Boston Marathon since crossing the finish line. The inner critic is real, and so is the inner mentor, the inner encourager. I am choosing to give voice these days to the inner mentor and to allow this wise voice to have a say in how the story is written.
The Boston Marathon experience was so much more than the run. The experience was the time with my kids, sharing the history of Boston and our country, sharing the experience of savoring the moments. The experience was remembering the “why” of being there again. The experience was about overcoming and relishing, not about setting a record. The experience was about sharing this victory with my greatest fans and cheerleaders, with those for whom I strive to be an example and from whom I learn so much from the example they set – my family and my kids. If I keep in mind my goals and reasons for setting out to run Boston again, the run was hands down a success – I enjoyed every high-five I took the time to take. I remember the course and all the great signs and support. I can recall Heartbreak Hill. I crossed the finish line with a smile, feeling fine, able to change and go about the explorations of Boston, capping the day and the marathon experience with the Post-Marathon Party at Fenway Park. If I let the first narrator write the story, the experience was joyful, blissful, and deeply satisfying. The other voice that wants to try to edit the story to focus on the time that wasn’t good enough or could have been better, well that narrator has been asked to sit down; their story is incomplete, their view myopic, and they tell a story that doesn’t serve the future I want to create. I am owning my role as the creator of my story. I am the narrator, and I choose the tone of voice that tells the story. Of course, not all parts of the story are joyful, but this chapter was filled with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude, so I’m bringing in joy to tell this part of my story.
Have you taken ownership of your life story? Do you see yourself as the author? Can you identify the dominant voice telling the story of your experiences? What other voices might you allow to speak? When, why, and how? Have you experienced a shift in how you perceive your story as time passes, or you experience something that gives a new perspective to your past journey and the part an experience has played that has shaped your present or your future? Do you see the importance of taking ownership? Of directing how the story is told in order to direct how the story plays out?
Today marks the 5th anniversary of my stroke and I am celebrating with a training run and pie with my kids. In April, I will again run the Boston Marathon as another celebration of my journey. I am celebrating for many reasons. I am celebrating most obviously, that I am still here. I am also celebrating that I am not just here, not just surviving, but I am thriving. I am celebrating because I am genuinely grateful for February 28, 2018 – a day that changed my life in so many great ways. I am celebrating because I am so thankful for the opportunity to have experienced at 37, what many others may experience, but not until their 70s or 80s. I was given this gift to not look back with regret but to look forward with intention, purpose, and renewed focus.
Five years ago, on this day, I came home from a swim to get my older son to preschool. I was moving books from a shelf in his room when my left arm inexplicably dropped the books, and a tingle shot up and down the left side of my body. My arm went offline. I took some migraine medication convinced this was just an odd symptom as I had had complicated migraines before, and I went about my day, taking my oldest son to school, taking my younger son to childcare, and going to a parenting class. I clearly remember mentally questioning at the parenting class, if people could tell I couldn’t feel the left side of my face or that my tongue felt funny when I spoke, but I carried on.
By lunchtime, the numbness persisted. I called a doctor I’d been meaning to call to establish care since we’d moved to LA and was told they would not see me. Instead, they directed me to the ER. So, I directed my car to UCLA Westwood with, I will admit, a little frustration with this inconvenient situation. I remember my husband and our two-year-old meeting me there and being greeted by a whole team of physicians who soon informed me I’d had a stroke. I remember the first words out of my mouth were, “Can I still run the Boston Marathon?” The doctor responded, “There will be other marathons” to which I explained that I’d run 10 marathons to finally qualify, and I really wanted to run this race. I remember thinking, I don’t need my left arm to run. People thought I was crazy, including these doctors, and as I reflect, I’ll admit, I sounded pretty crazy. Six weeks later, I ran the Boston Marathon in some of the worst weather in the history of the Boston Marathon. I crossed that finish line with the odds stacked against me. I didn’t run another marathon until last June when I decided qualifying for Boston and running the infamous marathon would be a really great way to celebrate the post-stroke years.
I remember all the “shoulds” that flooded in with good intentions. I remember choosing to sit in the discomfort and pause, to not be too quick to take action, but to allow myself to question, research, feel the fear and anger and frustration and grief. A few months later, I had an “ah-ha” moment. I call the first of these epiphanies, a “God moment” as it was sincerely life-changing, from the inside out, and felt as if it has been a thought simply delivered, not conceived. One morning, as I stood in our home office, the sun gently coming through, I felt warmth and light from within and there was a sudden knowing and confidence that came over me. I’ve learned to be more comfortable with these moments that garner looks of judgment from others, that garner those looks that say, “you’re nuts!” I realized in that moment, I didn’t find it crazy that I’d run the Boston Marathon after a stroke because I’d been training my whole life to overcome. I’d had so many opportunities to overcome that it had become second nature. I was determined and resilient and strong and courageous because of these experiences, and this stroke was no different. I realized the time had come to stop hiding these experiences that made me different – brain surgeries, lots of moves, financial struggles, growing up in a Hispanic family, so much self-doubt and lack of belonging – it was time to celebrate them. These were the experiences I’d been taught to hide in order to “fit in” but by hiding them, I’d been denying my very existence. I had been denying my voice, my value, my worth, and my strength, courage, determination, grit, and resilience; I had been denying my superpowers. The time had come to own my power, to use my voice, to be fully and unapologetically me. Over the coming months, I also found a deep desire to support others on their journeys of authenticity, to find and own their superpowers, too. There were more learnings and epiphanies that came that year that have encouraged me to live boldly, fearlessly and more authentically. My life now has direction and my struggles and triumphs have a purpose.
Since my stroke, I have learned to live bigger, to begin to stop listening to the “shoulds” or at least to question them, to speak up, to stop banging on doors that don’t want to open, to follow the path unfolding before me, to allow things to be easier, and to be more intentional and less reactionary. I officially launched my own business and had the third child I dreamed of having. I started a PhD program to look at what is impacting elementary school teachers tasked with implementing social and emotional learning programs after realizing my own vision for the way emotional intelligence might increase our capacity for being human, and therefore increase our capacity for other humans such that we might realize our full potential and become the unique puzzle piece in this world that we are meant to be. I started coaching, facilitating EQ workshops, and writing. I have also been working as an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University. As a child, I wanted to teach. I have reacquainted myself with my inner child and the wisdom she holds. I am manifesting these dreams, one day at a time.
I am learning to invest more in the people who see me and love me for who I am and who I am becoming. I am taking more risks, allowing myself to be seen, to be vulnerable and authentic. I am learning to dare more greatly, to cultivate an ability to listen to my inner voice and to follow the direction and guidance this voice provides. I am committed to my own well-being, growth, passions and to being an example to forge a unique path rather than trying to follow and live up to others. I am no longer chasing – chasing opportunities not meant for me, chasing relationships and love not freely given, chasing people who don’t or won’t see me, chasing a sense of worth and value determined by others.
I am taking time to observe and appreciate the little things too often taken for granted. I am making the space for the things I’ve learned seem small but have a big impact, like volunteering to read in the classroom of my son, reading with my kids and taking them to the library, teaching them to ski, playing Magna-tiles on the floor with my daughter, snuggling under the blankets to watch a movie with my three littles, and giving and receiving more hugs. I am reminding myself as needed, that life is best lived in the moments, and restful moments are just as important as productive moments.
I am learning to see my own value and worth. I am fully committed to creating my own authentic journey, to exploring the meaning I make from life and how this meaning-making influences my choices. I am learning to be freer and kinder to myself, to stop and admire the beauty that surrounds me, and I am finding peace, deeper satisfaction, purpose, and joy. So, on this 5th anniversary of my stroke, I hope you will join me in a toast to living a life that is true and full, never taking for granted tomorrow, and never letting yesterday’s regret keep you from living life today!
As Henry David Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined!”
I participate in a Brain by Design Masterclass conversation each week and it is one of the highlights of my week! My heart feels full after participating in one of these weekly conversations. I love the space we co-create, the new knowledge and information shared and exchanged, as well as the questions that arise to challenge and expand my thinking. I also appreciate the support and connection with this learning community. We recently discussed the book, Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, one of my very favorite researchers and authors, and a book I featured here last February. We kicked off one of our sessions with the seemingly simple question “What lights you up?” and took an opportunity in pairs to just listen to each other verbally ponder, brainstorm, and pay tribute to the things that light us up.
As we did this exercise, something I noticed afterward, was that I physically felt what it feels like to be lit up as I thought about the things I do and experience that bring me joy. To name just a few, running, reading, spending time with friends, engaging in deep conversations, teaching, skiing with my kids, baking, watching my kids play, and getting to write and do the work I love as a coach all fill me up and give me energy. I felt warm and joyful and full of light just acknowledging each of the activities, experiences, or aspects of life that make me feel full, happy, grateful, and satisfied. I often think about our unique purposes and ponder the idea of the things that bring each of us joy as holding important information about who we are at the core and what our purpose is in life. Or I consider if what we are good at and our passions differ, considering at least, how filling our joy and energy buckets can help us pursue our purpose and path if they aren’t one and the same.
During this month of love, I encourage you to reflect upon your passions and ponder the things, activities, and people you love and what you love about them. What lights you up? What activities do you do that bring you joy? What experiences do you seek and commit to that fill your cup? What does this tell you about yourself? Are you lacking in aspects of life that make you feel joyful? Do you do enough of the things that give you energy and light? Do you proactively make time for these activities, to notice and appreciate the joy something or someone gives you? What if you did more? Do you see the benefits of doing things, seeing people, and noticing that which makes you feel happy and alive? What if joy gives us direction? How might you begin to pay attention to the things that bring you joy and the information these observations hold?
We’ve all heard the old phrase, “time is money,” usually in the context of work and productivity. But, time isn’t just about money, it’s about happiness, health, and life. How we use it and feel like we have enough of it, is everything. Time is precious and, it is also our one nonrenewable resource. When a dollar is spent, you can earn another. When a day is gone, it’s gone for life.
So, how can we move forward, making sure that we live more intentionally and spend our time wisely so we won’t have regrets in the end? My guest today, Cassie Holmes, has done incredible research on making the most of the world’s most precious resource, time, and I’m excited to tackle these big questions and ideas in this important and timely conversation with her today.
Her new book, Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most, gives readers the blueprint to reframing their time and overcoming time poverty. And in our chat today, you’ll hear us dive deeper into this notion of having too much to do and too little time, how to distinguish between what matters and what doesn’t when it comes to our time, and what to consider and do if you want to lead a more intentional, happier life — which I’m sure that’s all of us.
I’ve been trying to make it a habit to not just read for work and research, but to also read for pleasure. I deeply enjoyed reading this book! The premise connected for me to the work I do as a coach, to my fascination with the midlife and the opportunity to craft the next chapter with intention, and to my belief that we are the authors and creators of our stories. The story also related for me, to the idea that the options are many, and until we try them we don’t really know the reality of the dream, but instead, we often torture ourselves with an idealized vision we’re too afraid to try. This book also made me think about both The Artist’s Way and Designing Your Life, and the challenges they both present in different ways, to prototype, dream bigger and do the work to uncover your purpose and give your dreams a chance to live – life is only as great as the life you dare to live.
What Amazon has to say:
The #1 New York Times bestselling WORLDWIDE phenomenon
Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick | Independent (London) Ten Best Books of the Year
“A feel-good book guaranteed to lift your spirits.”—The Washington Post
The dazzling reader-favorite about the choices that go into a life well lived, from the acclaimed author of How To Stop Time and The Comfort Book.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting blockbuster novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
You can sign up to receive my Three Thoughts for Thursday post as an email on the third Thursday of every month by clicking here. If you’ve missed any of my Three Thoughts, you can find them all on my blog. If you enjoyed this post, take a look at January’s Three Thoughts.
If you are interested or know someone who may be interested, I also offer leadership and emotional intelligence coaching and workshops. You can find more information on my website, or you can use this link to set up a free 30-minute introduction to coaching session.
In September 2022, I completed a year-long, quarterly series entitled “EQ and WooWoo” with my colleague and Spiritual Coach, Katie Kay. If you are intrigued and would like to learn more about this year’s series, Yoga, EQ & WooWoo, please email me or click here to see what we have planned with Hola House.
This workshop series was designed to help you manifest action toward the year you want to live, the person you want to be, and the goals you want to achieve. These quarterly sessions intertwine the use of Yoga, Tarot (and other WooWoo tools) and Emotional Intelligence to help you and your clients step outside the box in order to take your coaching and personal work deeper.
Also in September, I hosted my first local, in-person event here in the Seattle area, Savor the Sweetness. It was a fulfilling experience and event, and I look forward to hosting quarterly events for local women in 2023 – stay tuned and contact me for more information or to join the invite list!
If you are interested in joining and co-creating these learning communities, please use the links above to find out more about ICFLA’s Emotional Intelligence Special Interest Group and the EQ & WooWoo Workshops. I hope you will come along for the journey!
I’m always looking for new inspiration, new books to read, and new podcasts to listen to, so please send your suggestions my way or comment on this post to offer some new recommendations!
As always, thank you for your continued support and readership! Stay strong, stay brave, stay true to you!
Wishing you a season of joy, passion, love, and paying more attention to the things that light you up!