Day Three: L.A. and My Best Friend

City of L.A.

Today, travel took me farther West, and a little bit North to Los Angeles, the ‘city of angels’ or at the very least, the home of my very best friend for all time, Brandi.  I met Brandi in third grade, and we have been really great friends ever since.  Over the last fourteen years, we have spent less time together: we went to different colleges, she travelled to Burkina Faso for two years with the Peace Corps, and then moved to L.A. while I stayed in Portland.  Despite the distance, regardless of the infrequency of our communication, we remain very close, never skipping a beat when we do have the opportunity to spend time together.

We had a delicious brunch, I met another of Brandi’s very good friends (also a member of the bridal party in her upcoming wedding), and then we headed back to her place for a little recovery and nap before heading to dinner with her aunt and cousin before going to watch Porgy and Bess at the Ahmanson Theater.  We had just enough time to go for a quick walk in a nearby park where the lilies were blooming before going to dinner, and they are so beautiful.

The singing was fantastic!  I laughed, I cried, it was touching and so wonderful to see a stage show for the first time in years.  I now commit myself to attending more events (plays, opera, theater) because they bring me so much joy!!!  Thank you Brandi, for taking me to a show!  Attending the theater is  delicious reminder that singing and theater are still very dear o my heart.  Not only do I want to watch others perform these beautiful feats of song, dance, and acting, I want tot participate!

So here’s my declaration: I will learn three songs to have at th ready for auditions, and go put my best foot forward when I see an opening, … and just see what happens.  Without worry of whatever fears or worry my mind may have about getting “out there”.  Taking this chance is worth a little stress.

Choose to live your life through joy – whatever that means for you.

What are you afraid to step up and do?

~Alaina

Running vs. Racing – Pleasure or Prowess

When I tell people I am a runner, they often seem to immediately assume that I am fast.  And for some reason, I am always quick to jump in and tell them just how not-fast I am. I plod along comfortably, breathing easy, taking in the world around me, and simply enjoying the movement of my body through space.

I think my explaining stems from the desire to let everyone know “yes, you can run, too” regardless of speed, just setting foot outside your door is wonderful, healthy, and it can be fun! For years I hated running.  Until my first high school cross-country meet, the fastest mile I ever ran was an 8:30 min/mile pace set when running one mile in third grade.  The faster mile I ran in cross-country was the first of a 5K race; Mile one was 7 minutes, Mile two was 10 minutes, and mile three was 13 minutes.  No consistency, and I certainly started that out too fast.  I have yet to meet the third grade pace and maintain it for over a mile.

I am not one of those runners who checks their pace on their wrist to see if each mile is coming in at the same pace.  I run by feel. If I am out of breath, starting to heel strike, or feeling uncomfortable, I know I need to slow down to be able to maintain energy levels for longevity.  My goal has not ever been to race.  It is to relax, keep moving, and enjoy…

The more running literature I read – blogs, articles, books – and conversations I have with other runners, I learn that I have a very different perspective than my peers.  In fact, I would call it an extremely abnormal point of view and desired outcome for Races I enter.

Sometimes I wonder, am I just content to be running at the same pace indefinitely?  Is there anything wrong with that?  

Could it be that I do not have the motivation that others feel driving them to accelerate?  Or that I’m missing some gene that makes you want to push yourself?  I will admit, there have been only a few times that I have really pushed myself – and neither of those times was during the Marathon I ran last year.  Yes that was hard, and I ran a whole marathon distance of 26.2 miles, but as far as speed is concerned… I kept it easy.  I pushed myself to pass other racers in the last half mile stretch of the Pints to Pasta race a couple of years ago, and that was fun!

I guess, overall, I have never really attempted to race.  Not against myself or other racers.  Perhaps my delight in the well-known, comfortable easy pace is partially due to my hesitation to step foot into the unknown.  What if I lose my stride, and start to heel-strike, again?  What if I injure myself?  

What if… I CAN go faster?

What would that be like?

One of my greatest fears – throughout my entire life – has been succeeding.  Doing something well enough that other people notice.  Raising expectations.  Being authentic.  Being vulnerable.  Letting myself be seen, heard, and known.  So, I have always done well – but never really allowed myself to excel – at anything.  I stop before I move beyond good to really good.

I love dancing, and shortly after moving to Portland, I got quickly immersed in West Coast Swing and Blues – getting to the point where I taught a “Mini” Blues lesson (after knowing the dance for only three months!).  Less than two years later, I stopped going dancing.

I also love singing, and recently took lessons with some amazing teachers at the Transformational Voice Institute, and I have learned SO much, improved greatly, and then abruptly stopped taking lessons – and have not pursued any other singing venues since.

Now, I run.  A solo activity.  Running at my pace, there will be no comparisons with other runners.  I’m not fast enough to really compete.  I do truly enjoy getting out each day to do my duty pounding the pavement – my movement meditation, but I wonder if running is now my activity to help me hide from my other great loves, desires, heart callings by easily making it priority over the others.  What would my life be like if I could make time for all of these wonderful activities?

Do you find yourself choosing one activity over another that really calls to you?
How do you decide which to prioritize?

Tomorrow I have another five miles in the morning … Meeting a friend super early on the other side of the river, so I am off to bed before midnight for the first time in a week!  (If I were out dancing, I would not be home until after midnight – West Coast Swing Wednesdays go late!).

Please, have courage to do what you love with gusto.  Feed your heart and your spirit with joy, and allow yourself to succeed!  This is SO important. To being authentic…!

with joy and heart,
~Alaina

A long, lonely run, and a song.

Last weekend, due to having a full schedule, I found myself running not on Saturday as usual with my running buddies, but on Sunday, and all on my own.  I wasn’t sure how my body would react to the distance, and I had no idea how I would personally do on my own for a distance greater than six miles.

And I was running eleven miles.

Alone.

In general, I adore running by myself.  I can go out for an hour and fully entertain my mind with wandering thoughts and sights I see along the way.  But two hours running sounded a little daunting. To make matters worse, I left after 8:30am on a very warm day.

Fortunately, I had a plan.  I decided to run into the forest.  Yes, I live near Forest Park in Portland, and it is an amazingly wonderful resource for runners in the summer months.  I highly recommend a nice jaunt through the park to any visitors who like to run or walk in the woods.  The temperature had to be at least 5 degrees cooler on the trail, and I was no longer alone, on the street with the sun beating down on the top of my head; the breeze was perfect, shade was plentiful, and the air smelled fresh and green.  I was here:

Due to the heat, and due to the fantastic weather, the trail was packed with runners, walkers, hikers, and those occasional bicyclists.  Literally everyone and their dog was in the forest on Sunday.  Each corner I turned, a new face sprung up before me to acknowledge, send a smile and hello and encourage me to keep going.

By the time I had turned around for the “back” portion of my “out and back” trail run, I was starting to feel the lack in conversation.  I found myself feeling a tad jealous of (and annoyed with) those runners with earphones who were entertained and not saying hello to their fellow runners (me).  And then I remembered to eat my Cliff Shot (I’m a big fan of the Mocha)… Fifteen minutes later…

I was singing while I was running!

I have to admit, I am known for sporadically singing a tune or two, but this was a little out of the ordinary.  But I guess when you put me on a trail by myself, with no one around… spontaneous performances may occur.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

And consequently, I now believe that Broadway is definitely in my future because obviously if I can run and sing, I can dance and sing.  Right?  😉

All in all, I found that it is possible to run more than six miles on my own, and I have finally faced and beat the Forest-Park-downhill-knee-pain demon.  I finished that entire downhill pain-free.

Week 4 of Marathon training is complete! I finished the week with 24.5 miles, making June’s total mileage 77.8 miles.  I do not think I have ever run so much.  The consistency feels wonderful! 

How do you get through the long, lonely run?  

Do you sing on the open trail?  😉

As always, with joy,
~Alaina

Shave me a Song…

Actors Aloysius Gigl and Gretchen Rumbaugh portraying Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett.  Photo Courtesy of Portland Center Stage

Last night, I had the great privilege to attend the performance of Sweeney Todd at Portland Center Stage (PCS) at the old armory.  I had the great fortune to meet two of the cast members in from New York while having dinner at Abby’s Table last month. Abby’s offers a wonderful family style setting where conversation with strangers is bound to turn them into friends, at least for the evening.  I discovered I was sitting with the “Beggar Woman” (Michele Ragusa) and “The Beadle” (Martin C. Hurt) and they were most pleasant company!  They decided I would have to see the show, and boy am I glad that I agreed.  It has been at least two years since I last saw a musical production, and this served as a pleasant reminder of how much I adore musical theater.

Sweeney Todd is not a lighthearted, happy-go-lucky, singin’ on the plain, man falls in love with woman in a country town musical.  I had no background information on the story or what to expect, and it is a startlingly dark perusal of the evil acts man can commit, yet somehow full of humor and sporadic hilarity.  The music and singing were brilliant; the cast and crew put on a fantastic show.  I highly recommend you attend one of the last performances if you have time this weekend: there are still seats available and two showings Saturday and Sunday!

Only once have I taken the opportunity to participate in a show – my high school junior year experience in The Music Man.  I had small parts (yes parts, plural: not lead, but chorus, dancer, etc), and I enjoyed every moment.  After Thursday’s show at PCS, I am inspired.  Perhaps, one day, I will be able to take the stage and help a girl in the audience like me, to be reminded of what brings her joy, and she, too, may finally take action on her dreams.

~A

Breathe

A long silence.

Audiences waiting, breath bated…

What will her next reprise hold?

A dashing line, spoken bold,

A gentle word, spun with gold…?

Her breath is caught, she starts to sing

…and all that wait can hear the ring

the treasure found so deep inside

that finally, she no longer hides.

The song concludes with a final note

that rings through the air, and take note,

for the girl who finally let open her mouth

has learned to let the sound come out

with joy and pleasure she now sings for you,

in hopes this song will move you, too.

Sing out! Good friends, in all you do.

In the car, in your home, and on the street, too.

You never know how the joy can spread

or when a spirited journey may be led.

For those who by example show

the world around them how to grow

through smiles and laughs and gleeful notes

– they teach us to live our lives afloat –

We leap! and dance upon a whim,

and spend less time feeling grim

because when one is able to express

the feelings they have held repressed

the heart grows light,

the mind more calm,

and one realizes all along,

that all that was needed

was to simply…

Breathe.

And sing a song.

(Be gleeful, and share your joy!)