A news flash for your Monday: Life is full, with many high and low points. And sometimes, the highs dabble in the lows, and vice versa. Kids moving out, losing and gaining new career opportunities, the stress of creating exciting new businesses, the vulnerability of putting heartfelt content out into the world.
Lately, I visually identify with the broken heart emoji. But not because my heart feels broken in the traditional sense, but more due to the fact that I feel literally spilt in half with emotion daily. Excited and sad. Anticipatory and nostalgic. Certain and confused. Bored and overstimulated. Sometimes I can feel these emotions separately and other times it feels like a constant tornado in my heart, brain, and body.
When you open yourself up to intentional feeling and self awareness it can be absolutely exhausting. And the transitions of life can really magnify the realization that we often feel conflicting emotions at the same time. But we don’t need to be fully wrapped up in our own brains to wholly walk through and process experiences. We can look within to care for our needs and cultivate understanding, and then look outward for perspective, support, or sometimes distractions.
We best experience our full humanness while connecting with other humans.
It is likely that we all have stories of feeling so broken in half with emotion that the only thing that held us together was the support and love of others. And sadly, we also probably have at least a few times that people hurt us. People are not only in our life to be distractions from our feelings or to serve us. They are also (most of the time) not here to harm us. We thrive together in community with those who are honest, hold us accountable, challenge our decisions, and ultimately love us in spite of our many flaws.
This is true when it comes to racing.
As an athlete, I show up to most races absolutely filled with giddy excitement for task at hand. I am often also so nervous that I ponder my life’s choices. I recognize that I feel torn in half with emotion (or maybe not “half”— the percentage of excitement to fearful anxiousness varies with each race).
But when I arrive I am immediately in community with others, which breathes comforting life into my soul. And when my family, friends, and team are there it helps me feel even more held together. I can process my emotions within myself, while also taking the time to see and feel the connection to those around me. I feel the way they challenge me to show up to the task at hand. Even if I don’t know one person, I know I belong there. And often all it takes is one hug, smile, or silly comment from a fellow competitor to quiet the “WTF am I doing?!” voice of anxiety.
As our big local triathlons approach (IMWI and IMWI 70.3) many of my athletes enter their taper, which brings them out of the fog that can come with months of dedicated training. Often with this mental awakening of sorts comes the acute awareness that although they have been consumed, they have not been, and still are not training in a vacuum. As their bodies heal and their physical and mental energy is restored, their emotions feel bigger too. They crave control, clarity, and certainty, but also yearn for distraction. The are excited and nervous as hell. They can’t wait to get to the start line and also wonder why they started the journey at all.
They need people who allow them to feel it all (while maintaining boundaries and kindness, of course). They need those who have an empathetic understanding to share their excitement, and at times guide them in gaining perspective. And they need to know that their loved ones are in their corner, even if they don’t understand.
As a coach and friend, I try to hold space for divided feelings. I aim to listen with empathy, experience, connection, and expertise. To sometimes validate, and other times urge them to gain perspective. I help them create strategies. I try to connect them to people that I think will build them up, and at the same time help them see that people who don’t understand are not against them.
I urge my athletes to show up to their experience as a whole athlete, even if they feel divided. To communicate with their communities. To find tools to remain proactive in their approaches to it all, rather than become reactive. To find gratitude not only for their healthy bodies and the opportunities, but for the people that have, do, and will show them love along the way.
Racing is a metaphor for life. And even if you are not racing soon, or ever, I challenge you all to feel it all, navigating yours like you are approaching an Ironman with a whole, yet possibly also divided heart, body, and mind.
Connect deeply with yourself and love your people. It is truly what will hold you together.