Hold On…Just a Little Longer

It seems like it’s been a lifetime since I last talked to you and in some ways it truly has been. So much in my life has changed and then changed again, so although there are lots of words waiting in the wings, I’m not really sure where to begin with all of it. There is a huge lesson in all of it though and that is, just when you think you cannot bear to deal with even one more thing, one more thing comes along and you fight your way through it. You take one more step toward your belief in yourself being re-established. You take one more step away from the expectations of others. It’s a scary place to be sometimes. Standing far, far outside the relative safety of your comfort zone and all that it entails.

As you take those first tentative baby steps, you find yourself having to hold on through one more mind bending explosion of disbelief. Hold onto all those emotions you’re feeling for just one more minute that turns into one more hour and one more day. Eventually, the days turn into weeks and then months have gone by with no sign of a light at the end of this journey. Your comfort zone is now far removed and you’re no longer sure it ever really was your zone of comfort. Rather it was a place in life where you simply settled because that’s what you thought you were supposed to do. That’s the place you were supposed to be. That’s the place where it was best for all concerned if you just planted yourself and did not budge at all.

I would’ve never thought of running as something I was meant to do, or something I was supposed to do and certainly not something that was implanted in me to do. I’d always despised it before. Somehow though, running became my peace of mind and even that was taken from me and I found myself second guessing its necessity. Until the headaches and insomnia returned in full force. Oh yes my friends! Some people turn to drugs and alcohol or prescription medication to alleviate the stress of life and aid in their sleep cycles. I had been on prescription headache relief and sleep aids for two years before I really got serious with the amount of miles I ran every week. Once my mileage became a nice steady base of 30 miles a week it was like a veil was lifted, the insomnia was there one day and all of a sudden it was just gone. I could sleep! The headaches went away with only a few stragglers who held on…

Hold on for one more month. Do whatever you need to do. Tie a knot in that rope you’re holding onto for dear life and pray that it’s strong enough to keep you safe. Pray that it’s strong enough to keep you from tumbling back down into the hole you’ve spent these months crawling out of. Granted, it was a hole that I helped dig. Every time I turned my back on what I felt was right. Every time I compromised the boundaries I’d established for myself and our family. Every time I allowed someone in my life, an important someone no less, to make me feel as though balancing between my needs and that of the family was a selfish act. Is it selfish to take care of oneself? I say not! Everything that I’ve learned in the last 28 years of parenting has taught me that in order to be the BEST parent I can be I must take care of myself first.

What is it about being a mother that makes it okay for someone to come along and tell you that what you are doing is not enough? You are not enough. You are selfish. You cannot take time away from the “family” to replenish your soul because it’s not right. You cannot spend time with others who are of a like mind because they’re not your family and the entirety of your focus must be on just your family to the exclusion of all else. Oh, and just for good measure, while you’re being repeatedly told that these are all selfish acts, you have to put on this act of perfection for others. Nobody would believe you if you told them that you live with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Once the doors close and any temporary residents depart, the mask comes off, the joker goes away and the coldness arises from the depths. Sounds dramatic I know, but that makes it no less true. Hold on.

Just hold on. That’s what running ultras has taught me. Every mountain eventually tops out and then you are coasting back down again. When your legs tell you that they cannot possibly take another step that they’re too tired, you have to fight that feeling and keep moving. I had to keep moving forward and break out of the set expectations that were before me. Breaking out of those expectations meant breaking vows I’d made to God and that was a big deal to me. When one makes a vow to God you don’t simply break it without a lot of deep reflection and conversations with your God. How could I cleave our family in two and cause a huge disruption in our lives? Many nights of fitful sleep over the course of several years. I asked for guidance and none appeared. I prayed for strength and I received more trials.

On one particular day there was a moment when it all reached a very anti-climactic breaking point and I knew it was over. I prayed for a method to help me begin the process and within days I had my answer. The method was provided. I knew in that moment and every moment since that this action of breaking my vows was acceptable in the eyes of my God. You can call it coincidental or whatever you want to call it. I held on some more. This was just the beginning and it was not going to be without pain. How ironic is it that when you ‘fall in love’ there’s no pain with the butterflies in your belly, but when you find yourself disliking the person you were supposed to love through ‘thick and thin’ there is so much pain you’re not quite sure where it all comes from.

Pain. I learned all about this facet of life from a very early age and every step along my journey has only taught me more information about it. How deeply you can feel pain before it knocks out your other senses. How much pain you can tolerate before you just become numb to it all. Running taught me that pain is really an issue of mind over matter. Put it out of your mind then it no longer matters. Think about something else other than the pain and before you know it – you no longer feel the pain you once felt. This journey through the divorce process was very similar. There were days when I was in so much pain I did not know how I could possibly continue to move forward. I second guessed every single decision made.

Yes. I second guessed the decision. For those of you who know me personally this may come as a shock. Maybe, just maybe, I was overreacting. Maybe the problem was me and my way of thinking. There’s truth there you see. I was growing, branching out into other endeavors of life and felt as though I was not able to breathe or move without asking first for permission. Maybe comfortable was better than this struggle. If I just apologized and agreed with all that he’d wanted me to be, maybe we could save our marriage…..again. There was another side of me though that would not accept this. If our marriage was meant to be saved it would take two people wanting to do so not just one and I’d seen not a single sign from him that he was desirous of saving it.

Again there’s the correlation between running and life. Second guessing yourself and failing to follow through with your plan which then results in failing to accomplish the mission you set out for. I set the course, maintained the course and followed my heart as well as my mind along the way without deviation. It hurt. There were days when the pain was immeasurable. I missed……..wait. WHAT? What did I miss? The relative ease and comfort of knowing exactly what to expect from that particular rollercoaster is what I missed. Going around and around in circles, upside down and feeling as though my insides were being torn out by way of my heart is what I missed? Oh, there were good times too, but often they were simply bandaids to cover the wounds that had sunk in deep like a fish hook.

It’s over now. Finally. I can breathe and now learn what there is to discover about this person I’ve become and am becoming. There will still be pain and there are many more lessons left to learn, but I’m looking forward to the road ahead with our daughters. I’m looking forward to demonstrating for them that when you truly love someone there are sacrifices that need to be made, but they should never be of self belief. Hold on and be strong. Hold your course and love yourself enough to know that there is more to this life than what exists inside this little bubble of a comfort zone. Step outside of it and see the entirety of the world you’ve been looking at through your single, little window.

Life goes on….

Peace

~TLT

 

Anniversaries

An anniversary is so much more than simply a date on the calendar and when I hear people say that they married their best friend I wonder.

I wonder how it is that one can be just a best friend to someone who sees you at your very worst and loves you even though it hurts. I wonder how it is that one can be just a best friend to someone who sees you at your very best and loves you beyond life long tests.

I used to be envious of those couples who seem so in love whenever I saw them out and about but then I remembered what goes on behind closed doors is shrouded in clouds.I wonder how someone can love me for who I really am, if even I don’t know who that person is. I wonder how someone can love me through the good and the bad, when sometimes it seems that bad is all there is to be had.

It seems to me that saying one is married to their best friend may be undercutting the height to which love transcends. Marriage must transcend it all through the thick and the thin; through the times of financial struggle and times of ease; through the times of illness and of health. Yet those are only words we speak because when the line is drawn in the proverbial sand, you have to make a choice as to which side of life you will stand.

There are no easy answers and no instructions to follow, whether you are flying high as an eagle or drowning in a pool of sorrow. How will you manage to hold true to your words when they’re left tasting bitter on your lips? Why would you want to leave the person who steadies your emotions with just a hand on your hip?

A decade plus of marriage surely must show you how much you truly do not know this person you have married for better or for worse. Almost two decades of communication between the two surely must indicate that there is so much left to learn. There are choices to be made daily. That’s right I said, there are choices that have to be made – daily. As a wise woman recently said, life is all about choices and when we fail to make a choice that is a choice in itself.

Being married to another person is a study in patience, understanding and stamina to name but a few. When I am out among the trees, I am reminded of the likeness between my love of running and that of marriage.

There are hills to climb and as my friend Doug once told me, you are fighting yourself climbing those hills. Just go with the flow, he said, in his infinite wisdom. Take smaller steps and don’t work so hard. Being married is that way when every step feels like quicksand trying to pull you under to flounder in your misery. Quicken your steps, lighten the load and before you know it you feel as though you are once again floating along effortlessly.

I ask God to help me bite my tongue and guide my words daily. You see, some degree of faith in a power greater than me is necessary to trudge my way through when times are tough and the going is slow. There are things in this world I believe that only He knows. We make the plans but he sets the path and once again this is similar to running a race. We make plans to complete this race or that. We follow our plans and aim for a successful conclusion but sometimes there are lessons to be learned in the falling down and failing.

Anniversary is but a simple word that really means so much more….

A Story of Regret

She rolled over to see the sun streaming in through the bedroom window as though through a crystal chandelier, creating dancing jewels of brilliance on the wall. She wondered to herself why the house was so silent and where her husband was off to already this beautiful spring morning. It would be nice to simply linger in the bed as though it were made of the softest clouds, but there were things that needed to be done. If only….she could remember what those things were.

They were right on the edge of her mind, but stubbornly refused to come back to the forefront. No loss, she thought to herself. If it were important I’d remember what it was. There were no clocks ticking and her music had shut off hours ago thanks to the automated system that shut it down if there was no interaction within 90 minutes. Silence. There was a time when the moments of blessed silence were few and far between. Now though, silence pressed on her like a freight train, again reminding her that there was something she was forgetting.

She drifted off into her mind while looking at the sun jewels shining brightly on the wall. The kids were on her mind a lot lately. Eight children out there somewhere in this dark world where nothing was truly predictable and she was here, lying on her bed trying to remember what it was she ought to be doing. She reached over to see if the bed where her husband would rest his head was still warm, but all she felt was the cold sheet along her fingers and another feeling drifted into her mind. The feeling of regret raised its ugly, scarred head like the demon it was. Telling her that she’d missed out.

What had she missed she mused? Hadn’t she done everything she was supposed to do? Hadn’t she raised her children to be compassionate members of society? Hadn’t she tried to live up to the expectations of those who mattered and worked at being a decent mother and grandmother? She had not been perfect as a mother or a wife but hell, she had tried to do the right thing her entire life, for what it was worth. So what was left now for her to do?

People told her that once you became a parent your life was no longer your own and what you wanted from life no longer really mattered. She and her husband fought for years about her selfish nature and desire to be more than simply a housewife until she finally acquiesced and stopped planning, stopped partaking in events that took her away from her family a few weekends every year and most importantly she stopped dreaming of what was to come. She’d worked at living right here in the present without making any plans at all for what was to happen in the future.

What was the point in dreaming about the possibility of more, if all it brought was heartache so profound it felt as though her heart would fracture from the pain? Why bother trying to balance a life full of adventure and miniature personal escapades with that of marriage and motherhood, if the only product was a peaceful mind within a chaotic life? She had always thrived on what she fondly called organized chaos. She had always performed at her best when, as her husband used to (not so fondly say) run around with her hair on fire from one event to the next. The goal was to feel ALIVE!! Why feel so alive if doing so meant the adrenaline rush was short-lived and often devolved into tears and fiery anger because these things she yearned for were not what she was supposed to do.

As she lay there on her bed of clouds, fighting the demon of regret and staring blankly at the sunshine jewels on the wall ,it came to her. There was nothing for her to do now! The kids were all grown and gone out of the house and the silence was due to the fact that there were no other heartbeats occupying the same space as her. She was alone here in her thoughts, alone in her regret and shame for not making more out of her life. Now, as she looked back through the last 40 years she wondered, what was the point?

The kids no longer called to tell her their stories. There were no grand-babies crawling around because she was unable to keep a long-distance relationship with them over the years since that too was frowned upon by the powers that be. Somebody she used to know once told her that she would grow old and lonely because she was too selfish to understand what it means to sacrifice her own needs for the sake of others. Hah! The joke was on them now wasn’t it? She gave it all up for the sake of everyone else, and yet here she is as she watches the sun play through the window – old and alone, living with the demon of regret….

 

 

 

What you See…Is what You Get

It’s been 24 days since the 100 mile run I showed up for ended prematurely at 40 miles due to an injury, and although I have my head wrapped around the necessity of dropping it’s been a rough few weeks. You all hear the words and see the catchy hashtag of “the struggle is real”. We pay lip service to the issue of depression and the resulting suicide rate amongst our service members. We make jokes and pass judgment.

I’m here to tell you as someone who has battled that demon most of their adult life and has loved ones who are doing the same, depression on any scale is no laughing matter. What does depression have to do with running you may ask. It has a LOT to do with it in my case and that of many others I know and am proud to call my tribe. You see, running is not simply a physical act of quickly moving one foot then the other in a forward motion. Although we are, obviously, performing physical exercise that’s not the whole story.

There’s more to the story of running, for most of us, than simply the physical act. It calms us with the release of various neuro-chemicals. It stimulates other hormones and body chemicals to help us better cope with stress. We feel better about life in general when we are able to run. The inability to run has the same effect on a runner as does not being able to drink coffee on a habitual coffee drinker. Neither of which are pleasant.

As most of my friends will attest, I’m not an overly bubbly person to begin with. I’m not one of those women who walks around with an ever present smile on their face. I am one of those people who, if I know you, tends to say whatever I think needs to be said (within reason), and this often means that I say the things nobody else will for fear of hurting feelings. It’s not my goal, of course, to hurt anyones feelings and I do think about what I say before I say it, but I’m not one for mincing words. All of that to say that I am pretty much an open book. What you see is definitely what you get.

Since I am an open book, not being able to run without pain means that in 24 days I’ve ran TWICE….and neither time without pain. Was it successful? Who knows!! The question is, did I feel better afterwards…..? Absofreakinlutely!! Unfortunately for me, and those who are forced to live with me, running is the only form of physical exercise I’ve found that releases all the tension, eases the inner monster and helps my ‘politically correct’ filter remain in place for one more day. It also eases the feelings of depression that seem to pop in for an uninvited visit for no good reason. The struggle to maintain mental equilibrium is very real friends.

My life is perfect: I have a long-term relationship with my husband, a home, healthy children, beautiful grandchildren, wonderful pets aka fur-babies, honest and challenging employment and my own health to name but the top of the list of all I am thankful for. This does not mean that depression has no reason to reside here, since it does not seem to NEED a reason. That’s the real point dear ones. It just IS…What you see…IS what you get.

Until next time friends…

Peace

~TLT

Be Your Own Champion!

As I was grinding out 28 miles on the trail today I had an epiphany of sorts. This is often the case but usually by the time I get home and showered, I have forgotten what that AHA moment was. Today, I remember because this topic hits close to home.

For most of my younger years (20’s – late 30’s) I kept wondering why I felt unfulfilled much of the time. There were highs and of course, the inevitable lows but generally, I just felt like there was something missing from my life. The girls came along in my mid and late 30’s and things began to click in my mind I suppose. Now, with birthday 45 knocking on the door, only a month away, it’s fitting that I had a realization.

I have been looking for validation from OTHERS! I have been seeking someone to be my champion. A special kind of someone who knows me better than anyone else and has the ability to lift me up when I am down. This person would provide unconditional love and SUPPORT, regardless of whether they understand my crazy inner drive, or not. Unfortunately, while I was searching for this nonexistent person, life rolled on and the years have passed by.

Fortunately, today I came to the realization that I MUST be my own champion!! I have to be happy with my own inner voice and the support it provides. We cannot count on the support of others – not always. Even those of us who are in committed relationships (married or otherwise) need to be able to stand on our own two feet and know, without a doubt, that we are satisfied with who WE are as people. We cannot wait around for the applause of others because you know….we may be waiting with bated breath for that support and applause until the day we die because some people are unwilling or unable to provide what it is we seek.

Being married does not mean that your spouse really NEEDS to understand your drives, needs and desires, only that we wish they would. If they won’t or don’t know how then it is necessary to have enough BELIEF in oneself to carry on regardless of the fact that they have fallen below our expectations. You see, that’s really the crux of this whole issue of which I speak. Our expectations can be lousy little demons in our heads. They create this inner dialogue that tells us we should be unhappy with what we are receiving from our partner because they refuse to be our champion.

It’s okay!! They no longer have the responsibility of being your champion if you do it yourself!! See how easy that is? Believe in yourself so you can make yourself happy with what is going on in your life. You make the decisions to make your life happen in the way that creates YOUR kind of happiness and then they will do the same. We cannot change anyone and we should  not expect them to be what they are obviously NOT. Allow them the space to be what they are without an expectation that they were created to fulfill you. They were NOT!

Ask God for guidance and follow your dreams….Be your own CHAMPION!!

Until next time!

Peace

~TLT

Commitment to Your Cause…..

I have been thinking for a few weeks about this post, trying to decide which way to go with it. Some days I think I have nothing much to say and yet my mind is absolutely running wild with all these ideas, thoughts and considerations. Other days, there is so much to say that it would take me all day to blog! HAH!

I knew from a fairly early age that I wanted to be a mother. There was only a question of how many children I would have and as each one came, the number changed. Funny how that happened….7 babies later it was decided there would be no more from this body. Although being a mother is something I am fairly adequate at, it is not all encompassing for me. For example, I know women who thrive on the daily joys of being a wife and mother and have no desire or drive to do anything other than that.

It just is not that way for me. By the time our youngest daughter was born 7 years ago, there was an inner burn to do SOMETHING more or different. The few memories I have of my nana and grandmother are bittersweet. Not because of the memories themselves, but because as I look back with my adult eyes I realize that those women who were so instrumental in my childhood were just going through the motions. They were doing what they were told they were supposed to do. They went through their lives doing what they thought they were SUPPOSED to do rather than that which they desired to do.

Of course, part and parcel of being an adult means that there are things we do because we are supposed to do them. I ask you though, is that all there is? Are you willing to simply go through the motions of your life until you are dead? I am not! I think that we are here for some reason. To touch another life, to make a difference and bottom line – we are here to LIVE life not just walk through life doing what we are supposed to do. There must be a fire within! There has to be a reason to keep walking this bumpy road we call life.

I admire those women (and now even a handful of men) who feel it is their calling to dedicate their lives to the complete fulfillment of another human being. They rise and grind every single day in an effort to make the lives of their children easy and as close to perfect as possible. I ADMIRE them…….but I don’t wish to emulate them. The women who drive me, who make me want to be more and inspire me to work harder are the women who have a commitment to their own cause. These women are not satisfied with the status quo and have no compunction to sit idly by while life carries on and they remain stagnant.

This is a choice we make, to live our lives rather than walk mindlessly through it like we are robots. It takes a certain kind of commitment to NOT live up to the status quo. Find what drives you and then work for that hobby/mission or cause until either you can no longer do so or until that particular thing no longer drives you – and then find something else that motivates you! That’s my goal. Run it until the wheels fall off! Literally, run until I no longer can physically or mentally. This is my cause right now which means that I have a commitment to doing everything I can to be better.

Sometimes to be better we have to fall down and take some time away. This was what happened to me at Brazos Bend 100 four months ago. I was injured and had to step away from my passion for about 7 WEEKS. It wasn’t that long really but it felt like an eternity to me at the time. Now, I am back to training and you know what?! I LOVE and enjoy it even more than I did before. I relish the moments I can sneak away to the trail, listen to the birds chirping in the trees and smell the strong scent of an imminent rain. I began implementing some strength training again and started doing weekly tire drags. What an experience THAT is!

While I am usually sneaking away from my life, that is not to say that I am running from it. In actuality, the running adds balance to my crazy life and helps soothe the savage soul within me. Running long distances (as in over 20 miles) has taught me to slow down, and how important it is to be patient – even beyond the point where one believes they cannot possibly take anymore aggravation. It has taught me to listen to my body and heed its warning signs. This is part of being committed to a cause. When you are committed you will do whatever it takes.

What is your cause? What is the passion you have always been afraid to pursue? You will not know how good it can be if you never take the chance and begin….Take the chance, step outside of your comfort zone! Put one foot in front of the other and before you know it you will have traveled further than you ever thought possible.

Until next time…

Peace….

Parenting

There is nothing that will make one feel more inept and often guilty than parenting. Guilt can ride your back like an ugly monkey if you let it. Taking from you every ounce of joy parenting can elicit. I have been on my fair share of guilt trips – both self imposed and those thrown at me by those with less than good intentions. Funny enough, I don’t believe that anyone is able to impose on me a greater feeling of guilt about past mistakes than I can impose on myself!

You see, I am quite aware that as a child/mother/wife of 18 years old, I did not set the best examples for my children. I am aware of the fact that I made many mistakes as I was bearing and attempting to raise four boys in my late teens and early twenties. I am also painfully aware that my mistakes cost me to lose so much time with the boys. Time I am unable to get back – nor do I want to.

That’s right! I said I don’t want to take back that painful time. Do I wish I had been a better parent? Absolutely! Do I wish that I had not made the mistakes I made along the way which made the lives of my children harder than they needed to be? Of course! However, those difficult times created resilient young men and helped me be a better parent to my daughters. Those tough times that saw me lose my temper and forget momentarily how precious life is, helped create young men of immense amounts of patience and compassion.

Now, as I look back, after laying next to my youngest sleeping child who had thrown her arm over me and snuggled in for a good nap, I am grateful. Grateful for the knowledge that those mistakes provided. Grateful for the growth that occurred out of the pain. Grateful for the fact that my boys know in their hearts that no matter my mistakes, my love for them is never-ending. There is no reserve amount – no price to be paid. I love them no matter what – even on their worst day.

This is another lesson from parenting you see. I had always heard of the unconditional love of God and my mom always provided me with her manner of unconditional love. I did not truly know the meaning of the term though until the girls came along. You see, there is a different type of relationship (IMHO) between a mother and her sons versus a mother and her daughters. There is no doubt that boys love their mamas without reservation or hesitation – and I them. The love of mother and daughter however, is another animal altogether.

I am not even sure I can put this thought into a cohesive paragraph that makes sense to anyone but myself. With the girls there is an understanding. We communicate on the same plane using the same words that identify emotions. As people of the female persuasion there is a different type of communication that takes place – sometimes it does not even require that words are spoken. We pay attention to the smaller nuances of human behavior and for a great majority of us, this means that we are able to attain a new or different level of understanding.

What I miss about the boys: the sound of raucous laughter and them calling for ‘mama’. The mornings when one of the youngest attempted to make my toast ‘crunchy’ the way I like it, but misinterpreted BURNT for crunchy. They served it to me before I even rose from bed, as though they were serving a queen! I miss sweaty boy hugs and the look of pride on their faces as they successfully accomplished whatever feat they had attempted.

For me, being a parent is quite similar to my ultra running and in fact, the two worlds often intersect in unique and interesting ways. I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter the dirt/mud/cobwebby world of the trail. It is often quite unforgiving, cruel and difficult at the same time it brings me a fantastic sense of PEACE. The trail does not require one to think much beyond putting one foot in front of the other. At the same time, there are an abundance of thoughts that occur within my head simply BECAUSE it does not require a whole lot of conscious thought.

Running, especially as slow as I tend to go, requires some patience and compassion; fortitude and stubbornness….persistence and consistency. Does this not sound very similar to parenting? Ironically I find that many of these characteristics I thought I did not have, I have found on the trail. Not only directed or felt for others….but for myself as well. There is so much we can learn about who we are and in what direction we would like our lives to meander by hitting the open road, sidewalk or nearest rocky trail!

It is my serenity….my peace and the place I go to think. It is where I go to just BE…..me. Not mother, wife, teacher, student, counselor….etc., etc., to just be a body cruising the trail….

I am thankful and blessed to BE back on the trail and that has been another lesson learned. That is a story for another day though.

Until next time, don’t be a stranger…

Peace

~TLT