“She’s still trying to find her groove”

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Photo by Talbot Cox

I was surprised by some of the takeaways I’ve seen of a recent podcast and interview of mine: that I don’t have it all figured out, and that I’m still trying to find my groove. I didn’t expect to be perceived as unique or vulnerable in talking about how I continue to learn about my sport, or build a better relationship with my coach.

I don’t love the implication that in saying I don’t have all the answers, I’m admitting that I’m not great at what I do. I believe that the capacity to be always learning is a key factor that differentiates people who reach the top of their field.

It’s not that I don’t already know a lot about my training. I’m happy to geek out on any aspect (except maybe some specific workout where I turn off my mind and just let me coach tell me what to do). But I also know there is always more out there. Or some way to refine a system. Or some input that changes as I get older.
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And TBH, this perpetual student mindset is my “groove.” I would get bored without it. Insofar as boredom is a contributor to burnout, I believe the mindset in itself helps my longevity as an athlete.
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Expert status, mastery, they are not destinations, they are states of mind. So are relationships. I say I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my coach. In no way does that mean we don’t have a good one. I’m continuing to improve my relationship with my mother, and I’ve loved her my whole life. Relationships take active work. You should grow deeper understanding with someone the longer you know them. That is one reason this extra year of training for the Olympic summer has been a hidden gift.
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I fully expect to progress in the next year. But I will never progress to the point where I stop giving “vulnerable” interviews about how I’m “figuring it all out.” I guess I’m saying I have figured out all I need: The moment that I stop the beginner mindset, the moment I no longer want to learn or improve, is the moment I retire.

(For reference, podcast is Running on Om. I so enjoyed this discussion with Julia. And I do admit that I ramble around my point … I could probably work on that and seem more authoritative.)

Belief

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‘I want you to believe for a second that I am all-knowing… I want to tell you that I know for a fact that you will have everything that you dream of.’
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What would you do now? Who would you be? … I have watched normal, flawed, fearful human beings accomplish the extraordinary. For all of us, attaining what we hope for will require effort, discipline, focus, courage, joy, tolerance of errors, and a willingness to change. But, it does not require perfection. As long as our hearts are captured by dreams we should chase them. So, ask yourself, what would I do now if I knew that my dream would come true?
Shannon Thompson

When I read this the other day it was exactly what I needed to hear. So I’m leaving it here in case anyone else feels the same. In an unprecedented situation, we can still act with our dreams in mind, with the faith that one day soon we will have made it to the other side, and we will look back on this time together.
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The author is sending out daily emails with more nuggets of wisdom just like this one.

Here is her instagram, and here is the blog.

Follow your feet

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“Be where your feet are.” It’s sports psych wisdom about staying in the moment that also applies to life in lockdown. I liked this and many other gems from the podcast Laughter Permitted with @juliefoudy interviewing Dr Colleen Hacker.
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Dr Hacker was the mental skills coach for the US women’s national team, and gives tips on how sports psych tactics can help in a this period of stress and uncertainty. I also love just hearing their mutual respect and care for each other even years later. Bonds forged in sport last lifetimes 💪🏼💪🏼.

Here’s the link to the episode.
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The photo is from @jordan.beckett

On hope

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A recommended listen for uncertain and uncharted times: the @onbeing podcast with Rebecca Solnit on hope.
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She flips the aversion to uncertainty on its head. Hope needs uncertainty.

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

Here is the link to the podcast episode.

I’m coping, but I can’t say it’s pretty

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When Cortney White shared this photo I was a little annoyed. In what world would I ever want to use an “ugly cry” picture. 😑January was so naive.
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Joking aside. This week has been hard. Part of me hoped that if we shared enough memes, or found the perfect TikTok dance, the mood would stay light. We would make it through with mediocre social distancing, and come out the other side mostly unscathed. I deluded myself, and this week it’s sunk in. As my dad has been saying… this isn’t one blizzard, we are in it for the winter.
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They announced that the Olympics are postponed for a year. At this moment all the focus needs to be on fighting the virus spread. I know that. But I wasn’t exactly stoic in my processing.

After the indoor track season, I started mapping out the 16 weeks until the Olympic Trials. I was grateful and excited, even joyous. After a long period of work, and near misses and mistakes, I had grown and incorporated new knowledge. I was healthy, having the time of my life, and the training of my life. I love that process of betterment. And I couldn’t wait to see what it might become. Of course, all the parts are still there. It’s just the schedule has changed.

But I’ve also known for a while that this would be my final Olympiad. I looked forward to exploring what it would mean to transition to a different career. And I’m not sure how the Olympics pushing back is going to affect that timing.

Top it off with all the financial unknowns. For an athlete, that looks like uncertainty with what this means for revenue streams, and if there will be opportunities to race, which impact exposure, sponsorships, and rankings.

I realize there are a lot of people in really tough situations. And public health is at risk, and the number one priority. I don’t mean this post to discount any of that.

I guess I’m just reaching out to the people who are scared or uncertain – about job security or finances; or dreams deferred, plans put on hold; health, safety, identity. I don’t know how to wrap up or when this will get better. I know connection matters. Even if it’s a connection over a million personal heartbreaks.