Monday, October 31, 2016

Inside Out

I slept in yesterday, Sunday. When I “sleep in” it’s usually 6:30, maybe 7:00 a.m. But yesterday, it was 8:38 am and even then, I didn’t get out of bed. Saturday night, before climbing into bed, I let the curtains fall closed. The sun still usually comes thru quite strong, but yesterday, it was a bit overcast. I had my coffee in bed and I didn’t take the dogs out. 

Somedays, it’s nice to just not do or be anything. It’s nice to watch tv, listen to the flags slap against the wind, not hurry to start the day.

I checked my timelines on all the social media sites. It was the 41st Marine Corps Marathon yesterday and I knew several people running. It was funny to see all of my own posts from previous MCMs pop up and give me a gentle reminder of all the things I wasn’t doing, all while I drank my coffee in bed. 

Everyone in my house had something to do or somewhere to be, but I chose no… No, all because I just didn’t want to. After it was quiet again in the house, I climbed back into bed to watch a few of my DVRs from the past month. And as I was laying there quiet and content, I just felt a wave of grief. I had tried to call my dad, my sister and the house phone, but no one answered. This would’ve usually been the time when I called my mom- she always answered. 

Those are the moments I miss her the most. Instead of pulling the covers back over me, snuggling safely into my favorite spot, I got up and made up my mind, even if just for a moment, for a day. 

Grief is a "funny" feeling. I've been such a lazy bum, internally and externally since losing my mom. I hate the way grief makes me feel. I try to cancel out the would've, should've, could've of it but most days it wins. It’s easy to just keep thinking of all the excuses that keep me from doing what I love. But yesterday, I ran downstairs, got my Purple/No Excuses Flower, changed into my running shoes, dusted off my treadmill & got on. 

Three miles later, three miles later…

One of my Fellow Flowers said something very wise and it resonated loudly with me. She said the grief process requires “respect.” The grief process requires respect… 
My Fellow Flower also told me she was proud of me and glad I found a way to channel my grief for the day… yesterday… and again today… three miles later. I felt relieved, good, the way I wanted to feel. I felt healed for those moments. I think that’s what running does for me. Each time I run, I don't necessarily look like a runner, feel like a runner, feel like a marathoner, but I’m amazed at the amount of healing on the inside that takes place and radiates outwardly. 

Running, channeling my grief, leaving behind frustrations, every day life, annoyances, moments of disappointment and every single other thing I might be feeling; running however far, fast or slow, heals it all from the inside out and leads me to a path of community, friendship and hope.

Be safe and happy running y’all.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

When it's right, it's good

I went to my Wednesday night running group this week. There are always so many things to do to keep us from going, but when we make the time to go, it's pretty good. My husband and I don't always run together, sometimes we walk. Last week that's what we did. This week, I had already made up my mind to not hold him back, in case I wanted to walk. Instead, I left for my run before everyone else got there. I just wanted to see how I'd feel and this way I'd get in a few extra steps.

I decided to walk and while I was walking, I just felt "it" was right to run. When it's right, it's good. It feels good, the air feels good, the ground feels good, the shoes, the body, "it" all feels good when it's right. It's been a really long time since its all felt so right, or good. I circled back to the start and met up with running group and chatted for a few, listened to a few minutes of the world series game that was playing in the background, tried to convince myself it was alright to not go back out. Because I'd run already, after all (not far), but we all went back out. It definitely felt right.

Darren and I are rebels so we didn't stick to the mapped route. Instead we were headed to the track at the nearby college. He's faster than I, so I told him I'd catch up. It didn't take me long but he was already circling back out because there was a soccer match on the field. Again, it felt right to just keep going, so we did. And when we completely ran out of sidewalk, we turned around to head back to our start.

When we wait until things are "right," we can lose out on so much, or realizing we can make our own "right." I love running by myself but it was right to hear my husband's feet hit the ground along with mine. The air was crisp, which means fall's here. The sidewalks covered in colorful leaves crunched under our feet, another giveaway fall's in full force. Leaving summer behind is a lot easier for me this year. It feels right.

None of the distances run really matter when it's right, because it just feels good. Last night's run was the longest, most consistent run I've had in a long while. The beer after was right and really good too.

Stay safe and happy running y'all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Two Years Ago

Two years ago today seems a lifetime ago. It seems cliche to say such but it really is a truth of mine. On my Facebook timeline for two years ago today, I was reminded of the following:

“So here's something kind of cool & very much a different perspective. An elite runner is staying at my hotel. Needless to say, he's VERY fast. He asked how my marathon went & I gave him the run down. He said, "I run fast because I could NEVER do what you do. I couldn't go out there for several hours & give it my all. All I have to give is about two hours & a few minutes." I told him I really didn't mind. I thought it was kind of neat to see someone else's view.”

This was in regards to the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon and it was when things in my life were a lot more “normal.” But normality is probably also cliche.

It’s no secret that when you loose your “mojo” it is so far gone sometimes, it can seem also an entire lifetime ago. Two years ago, twenty pounds less, less defeated, less lonely and more motivated… There are days when I think to head out for a run and feel as though I am a brand new runner. In so many ways, I probably now am. I think it’s funny to know I’ve done a few marathons, countless long runs, countless miles, yet, today unlike two years ago, I feel like a brand new runner. 

I don’t know the sentiment is necessarily a negative. It does make it really hard most days to find the motivation to regain some of those strength in miles I had two years ago. I’ve never been big on boasting about my running times, the miles though are another story. I’m in awe of my own damn self some days when I think about all the miles in my running log. Some days though, I wonder how the hell I ever did it at all. And today, I wonder how the hell I get motivated to do it again.

When I revisited the “elite” runner’s perspective, I felt a small chip of the wall holding me back, fall away. 

Back when I trained for my first marathon, my friend Becky gave me a bracelet with a charm dangling from the bangle and it said, “It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon.” I love this bracelet so much, not only because it’s super cute, but because someone else had a faith in me I didn’t necessarily see to have for myself. The saying applies to so much more than just running. Some days seem like a marathon, some months, some seasons do too. July 9, the marathon of making it thru the days without my mom started. Some days I can’t wait to go back to bed. Some hours I hurry thru to get one step closer to the day’s end. 

The elite runner saw something from an entirely different perspective than mine. We ran the same miles, we saw the same things, we hit the same streets, but what he said was more powerful to me than I knew to see for myself. 

Last week, I went back to my Wednesday running group. I didn’t run, I walked and visited and it felt nice to be surrounded with different people. It felt good afterwards to talk about so many different things, to drink beer, watch baseball and just talk to each other about everything and nothing. I have my stuff all ready for tonight’s running group too and maybe I’ll even run a couple of those miles. 

Two years ago seems so long ago, so recent and so much wiser than today. I have a different outlook for tomorrow right in this moment than I did yesterday. I can feel the chips falling off the wall and look forward to breaking it down piece by piece, no matter how small the pieces may be.

Be safe and happy, peaceful running, y’all!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Go Slow and Pay Attention

I took Sister Biscuit, ChaHu Extraordinaire for a trail run on her favorite trails yesterday. We call that #TrailRunningTuesday and she is the #TrailRunningChaHu for those wondering. It really does put the fancy in her feet and makes her nearly sparkle. She and I hadn’t been on the trails since maybe April. I kept thinking surely I’d taken her in May, but now I think I probably had not. We were preparing for graduation, doing last minute scout stuff to ready our son for his Eagle and we had a graduation party and company come in (It was the last time I saw my mom too). So, now that I really think, I don’t think I’d taken her to her favorite trails since April. 
See her sparkle?!

The trails are so peaceful, no matter what kind of day, what the temperature is or what pace we do or don’t run. On the way to our run I noticed there were a lot of things that had changed since I checked out in July, with the sudden death of my mom, Susan. For instance, the huge corn fields on the corner down the road are now apparently, “The Future Home of An Additional School” and another farm area is now three houses. Sigh… some call it progress. And when I say, “checked out” it really does feel like from July 9 on, is the “after” and everything before is of course, the normal life I used to have. It’s been the longest two months of my life and it’s been incredibly difficult. 

I needed those running trails as much as the dog did and when we got there, I kept thinking we would just Go Slow and Pay Attention to all of the things the trails had to offer. Seems as though, even the trails changed without us.

Driving up I immediately noticed the huge rocks that lined the parking lot were no longer there (I found where they went after) and this was a good change, as I had crashed into them a few years ago…

We set out on our first run together since April and having not gone on those trails, Sister quickly grew into her old running self when she stepped paw to pavement and dirt. She, I swear, looked back at me and smiled. And that little ‘smile’ made my heart happy. I always let Sister lead the run, because it’s her favorite thing ever. She was cautious at first and stayed behind me for a bit. We always have to Go Slow and Pay Attention for the beginning of the run and she likes to sniff EVERY THING EVER. But once we rounded the first corner, off she went in front of me. The smell in the air had changed and I noticed there were already a bunch of leaves that had fallen and covered some areas of the trail. Change. I’m ready to change seasons. 

We went slow for the first mile and Sister chose her next trail, the next turn. We stayed on the TNT trail that heads out to a huge field that has corn. That too, has changed as it’s now soybeans. We kept on, and knowing what hadn’t changed was that we’ve never encountered anyone on that part of her trail, so I let her off her leash. It’s exciting for her and I like to take that in for myself too. 
To the left, to the left... no more corn to the left, just soybeans.

We kept on at a slow pace and paid attention to our surroundings. I could hear in my head what my mom always told me when she knew I’d be on the trails, “You better watch out for snakes.” After making that statement she’d make a silly shudder of a sound because she HATED snakes. We didn’t see any yesterday and mom would be pleased at that. 

I kept thinking about how things all looked a little different. There were areas of the trail that were overgrown as if they hadn’t been groomed since last we ran there. Because they were overgrown, we had to Go Slow and Pay Attention. 

Most times when running on those trails with Sister, I don’t have in my earphones, because I need to be able to hear when a cyclist might be coming or another dog, or hear the crazy squirrels when they want to chase the dog and she them. It’s nice to hear the foot hit the ground and the crunch of the leaves or limbs and rocks underneath my feet. I like to hear the dog too; her little pant, her little tiny feet and the way her collar sounds when she’s on the leash. I like to soak in the surroundings and Go Slow and Pay Attention. It’s the beauty of the dirt trail run and how it’s completely different from a road run or even a gravel trail run. 

On our turn around, we picked up the pace a bit (actually 2:32 less than on our way out). We knew what was coming, where the dips are made from the bicycles, where the scat is from the animals, we know where the bodies are located (there’s always something dead and fluffy out there). We know our way out but we know our way back even better. There’s always a little sadness in my heart when we round that last corner and see the run coming to an end back at the parking lot. Even when there are changes to the area, we still know where we’re going to end up. And then, we know where we want to go back to the next time. It all comes from appreciating what life is giving you, the bumps, the rough patches, the scary dips and the smooth parts too. It is tough sometimes and requires you to Go Slow and Pay Attention to the good things and the things you may even want to just skip right over.

Go Slow and Pay Attention to not just before and after, but to all the things that change while you’re not there to see and all the things remaining. It’s hard and I’m trying my best.

By the way, the huge rocks are now lining the parking area of another gravel trail that I previously only “illegally” ran. The park rangers have removed the no trespassing signs and the trails are no longer forbidden… at least I think.

Be careful and happy running y’all.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Things Holding You Back

Hmmmm… I kept thinking about this all week. The things holding me back, what are they? Mind, effort, job, animals, not people (I don’t have anyone holding me back, only pushing me forth), weight, want, lack of desire, emotion, sorrow, WHAT? 
What are the things holding me back is a question I’ve been asking myself for over a week. I kept the thinking about that question since my last run. On that run, I saw a perfectly green tree, bright in its shade of color, perfectly shaped, sunned in all the right spots, except the one branch being choked out by a disease of some sort. It was just the one branch, webbed and browned, destroying the tree, eating the leaves until they were whispers of what they once were, keeping it back from being what it was supposed to be in its entirety. 

There’s something greater at work or at slack, than just what’s happened to our lives over the summer. I think I’m trying to stay put for a little longer just so I don’t have to face what’s to come in life, without my mom. But I also think there’s a deep desire to move along. When I say move along, I don’t mean no longer mourn or no longer crave her presence. I think I mean move forward through the things holding me back. 

I had a little “incident” this week, of the dog kind. The big dog and I were playing. We always tease that he has a block head (like a cinder block it turns out) and when we were playing, his head slammed into mine. A trip to the ER, several meals through a straw (I was told no chewing meat but I won’t consider bacon meat) an X-ray at the dentist and a chiropractor later, there’s a lessened pain, a lessened stiffness, a release of sorts. 

That’s it. That’s what’s holding me back. The things I’m holding on to for dear life are the things holding me back. I can do nothing but sigh at that statement. I think in that statement, I’m meaning, the deepest of sorrow, the angriest of anger, the most frightful of fears, the height of anxiety, every single memory, thought and experience, good and bad, of my mom. It’s unavoidable. Some of that will have to be released.

That tree I saw had its own struggle and I’m not sure how it will get through. It has deep running roots for a reason though. That tree has the strength to stand up in the sun, cold, wind, rain & snow. That tree has its own mission, but it has something very visible holding it back too. If that tree allows whatever it is that’s holding it back, turning it brown, choking out its green, to keep going, then that’s exactly what will happen. And I know if I keep allowing things to overtake me, my goals, my needs, my sheer want and need to push forth, I’ll only ever remain exactly where I currently stand.

When I saw that tree, I had such doleful thoughts. I considered how pretty it was, but how damaged it would inevitably become. I grieved for the tree. “What are the things holding you back?” You’ll be glad to know the tree didn’t answer but I did.

I don’t want to feel lost anymore. I hope to feel settled in peace of mind and in my heart. The doctor told me today that I’ve got to do whatever it is that makes me feel a sense of devotion and releases my stress.

With every contemplation, however I’m stricken emotionally, I hope to release. I hope to draw in a cleansing breath of strength and exhale a little anxiety, stress, sorrow, anger, grief, even if that happens one pant at a time. 

Be careful and happy running, y’all.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Longest Mile

Sometimes I set off for a run thinking that run will be THE run. The run that feels the best, the one that is the easiest, the one that gets me inspired, the one that tops all the other miles. And then sometimes, that run is the longest. 

I always seem to go back to running and it always seems to teach me something, whether I mean for it to, or not. We have our own relationship. We love each other but some runs are more volatile and some are less eventful. It certainly is kind of amazing when I think about all the miles I’ve put in and it certainly feels like I’ve accomplished not much when I look at my run tracker and see how slow I’ve gotten. I like to think, I’ve become “deliberate” more so than just really damn slow.

Being “deliberate” has its perks though. I’ve always loved just enjoying the way the foot strikes, how it sounds, how the rocks crush against each other, how the pavement smacks the sole and how the dirt kicks up onto my legs. 

The sun was out on this run, the longest mile, the run I wanted to go on, but just couldn’t physically make myself do; the run that smelled right, felt right, sounded right, the right shoes, the right socks, the right shorts, the right music. I could hear the people at the lake finally allowed to swim again after swimming warnings were lifted. I could hear men laughing as they were fishing. PS, I thought you were supposed to be quiet to catch fish. I could see the sun glisten off the water, which was slapping a little off the rocks. 

I felt good, the run felt right and then, a mile in, I just stopped. I stopped, turned around and walked to a spot by the lake, climbed over the rocks, got caught in the strongest of spider webs, took off my shoes and laid all the way back on the flat rocks. I soaked in the sun, I soaked in the music of the lake, I soaked it all in. I breathed in deep and just enjoyed my moment. I felt sad for a few breaths, felt frustrated, scared and relaxed. For a moment, I felt relaxed, like life was normal. Because this new life is my new normal and at times it really sucks. Then there are points of strong quiet when I know life is good and will be alright. That peaceful feeling hasn’t happened a lot over the last six weeks of living, but it happened on this mile.

I didn’t really think I had taken much time, but when I got back to the car (which was not even a quarter mile from my respite spot on the flat rocks) the mile had taken me 41:55. I got lost in the run which turned into a moment that turned into the longest mile. 

The miles are more than just miles, they’re junctures of healing, of release, relaxation and occasions to drink in the beauty all around. It was the longest mile and it felt like just a blip of time. It was time well spent. 

Be careful and happy running, y’all.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

Her Name Is Susan

This means a couple of things… Her Name is Susan, Black Eyed Susan to be more correct. I guess this could be looked at as my comeback run on the road to recovery and that it is filled with divine intervention and moments of spectacular proportion, verifying all of the white light beliefs we all hope there to be when someone you love most, dies. Alas, it’s not. But it’s filled with meaning… to me.

There’s a trail I like to sometimes run. It’s gravel and it has some shade, a little breeze sometimes, around one of the bends, from the wind off the lake. I know I’ve seen “her” there before, but I guess I just didn’t know I had seen that many reflections of “her.” I’m positive I’ve taken “her” picture there before and I’m positive I sent the picture to my mom, MY “Brown” Eyed Susan. She wasn’t there for me to send the picture to today.

I made up my mind, that the day of firsts would be Wednesday, August 10, 2016, one month, one day after losing my Susan. I went back to work, I went back to tracking, I went back to running. I’ve never been so hesitant to start again but I did make it into work. I’ve never been so determined to start again and I made it back to my trail and to find “her.” I didn’t intentionally go to the trail looking for “her,” she, all of the shes, made themselves prevalent to me. 

It took about a quarter mile for me to pay attention to my surroundings. I was messing with my phone, with my running app, with my playlist, with my earphones, with my water bottle, with my shoe the dog had recently eaten the heel off of, sigh… As I made my way down the first little hill, I did see “her.” I thought, “Aw look, a Susan.” And then I saw several more Susans. And then I saw and even bigger patch of Black Eyed Susans. I started to feel the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze and I started to pay attention. There must have been a hundred, easily wisping back and forth gently in the slight breeze. They were patched in the sun, in the shade, amongst the weeds and amongst the wild flowers. 

The tears couldn’t come fast enough and they couldn’t have stopped at the right moment any sooner either. To hold back is to feel somewhat like you’re dying inside, like your heart is sinking, so I let the tears flow. I wore a red shirt with the word STRENGTH on the front. It was appropriate. It was needed.

I heard my run tracker tell me I had reached one mile. I had reached my first mile on my trail, on my road to recovery, on my path of hurt and of healing. 

To say it was divine intervention would be weird, as I know things have and will continue to occur that have nothing to do with me or the death of my mom, Susan.

What I do know is that after that first mile, my heart felt sore, felt beaten, felt exhausted. Was I trying to take things as my own, reach for any reminder of my mom I could reason? I don’t know. I can’t answer that. I’ve never had to mourn this deeply before and I don’t know the ins and outs of mourning or how to do it “correctly.”

At some point, I missed my two mile marker turn around, because when you’ve run the same area over and over, you know the quirks of it, the hills, the slow spots, the tricky spots, the icky spots and the shaded spots too. I thought, “Well, I’ll just refill my water at the swim spot and it’ll be fine from there.” I meant to go three miles and ended up going almost five because I let myself get lost in my grief and emotions. When I got to the water area, there was an ECOLI warning and the water faucets were on, but there was a warning saying not to drink from them. 

The temperature was 95 and because I had gone further than I meant to, it was a good amount in the direct sun. I rethought my strategy and figured I’d just conserve the water I had and I’d hit the shaded spots as much as I could. The sun was hot, my shirt was soaked, I forgot sunblock and I could feel my cheeks getting red, and my scalp, because in my haste to make things happen, I forgot a hat too.

I needed a break, I needed shade, I needed my water and I was getting a blister on my half eaten shoe heal area. Stupid dog, I reminded myself to again scold the guilty party. I needed my mom. I needed my Susan the most. The other things I could get over, I could manage, I could work with… not having my Susan, I don’t know how to do that quite yet. I walked off the trail to find a little shade and to drink the last of my water and what I needed the most was there. 

It was right there, it was RIGHT THERE! There were no other Black Eyed Susans in that area. NONE! There were white wild flowers, two different kinds of purple flowers, teeny tiny itty bitty yellow flowers, a ton of green weeds, grass and leaves. But there she was, nestled in the thick carpet of green. ONE. Susan was there. 

Say what you will; say it is my imagination, my determination to find something or anything to remind me of my Susan. Say it didn’t have anything to do with me, or embrace the reminder of the fact that there was, is and always will be love that shines on me… Her Name is Susan.

Be careful and happy running y’all.