I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing.
Especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.
I have been known to make mischief in this world in which I live, frequently disregarding the status quo.
It is fitting, then, that I wound up studying at The Seattle School—a place full of innovative, courageous, curious, and desirous individuals who are not only out to partner in the healing processes of others, but to also engage deeply in their own process of becoming.
While Mary Oliver’s words above feel so connected to my experience of studying at The Seattle School these past four years, kindness has been harder won in my life.
Unexpectedly, one of the most profound lessons I learned during my time at The Seattle School was the practice of kindness and generosity toward my own mind, body, spirit, and story, as well as the costs of engaging such an on-going process.
Prior to starting my third year of school, I decided to take a risk. Previously an NCAA Division I athlete and National Champion, I found myself desiring to become an athlete once again.
In my personal work, I have grappled with what it means to both be and feel worthy. Much of my experience as an athlete in the past was shame-driven—a process where I was always warring with my body, wanting it to be different, better, faster, thinner, stronger etc. I came to regard myself as a pawn to be played in such a way to serve the greater good, not realizing at the time the cost it was to my own person.
So, I signed up for an Ironman triathlon.
The race was beyond me in so many ways, and I was nervous to speak it aloud realizing just how foolish it was—not the actual event, but the gravity of it for my own story.
Never had I taken on something where I very well might fail. I had always done things with the purpose of succeeding. This time around, not only did I want to train for an Ironman that I felt I might fail to complete—I also wanted to do so in a way that looked very differently than my previous athletic endeavors.
The words intentionality, honor, kindness, desire, ownership, presence, process were all drifting about. Could I be an athlete and hold my heart well?
The night after I signed up, I anxiously told my friend while driving home in the car.
“Perhaps today is just as important as the day you race,” she responded.
Her words were so simple, and yet they became so emblematic of my journey. During my training, I came to recognize every day as just as sacred—if not an even greater gift—as the day of the race. My friend’s words invited me to recognize my own potential for choosing life and staying with my desire, even if it meant failure.
The nine and a half month process would be full of baby steps and fumbling as I tried to balance hard work and self-care. I frequently woke up before 5am to work out, locking myself out of my home more than once because 4:30am is too early for anyone to think straight. I ate an abundance of ice cream eaten under the guise of “mental health.” All the while, I was juggling school, nannying, seven-hour bike rides, and trying to maintain a social life.
I listened to my body for the first time and celebrated it for its willingness to entertain my foolish endeavors. Some days, I did not leave my couch because my body didn’t want to entertain those desires. I came to celebrate those days, too, as I began to see both the capacity and limitations of my mind, body, and spirit as a gift that could speak volumes that served me wonderfully if I listened.
Race day came, and somewhere around 12 hours in, my body slowed to a painful walk mid-marathon. However, the spectators lining the streets still cheered me on. I have never felt more worthy and accepting of those cheers from the sideline than I did in that moment.
That’s when I knew I had done it. In years past, shame would have crept in and taken a stronghold over me for not running, for things not going as planned, for believing this all to be indicative of my worth. This time, however, I took ownership of my goodness and I did not flee my heart.
I eventually returned to running and ran my way to an epic finish marked with a celebratory jump across the finish line, feeling all the feelings.
Crossing that finish line represented a new realization: my limitations would not be my greatest failure in the training process, let alone in life. Rather, my greatest success is allowing myself to be rooted in a process of continuously coming back to myself with gratitude and kindness each day in this exciting (albeit vulnerable) adventure that is being human.