Monday, February 13, 2012

Why I run.

Today I want to tell a portion of my running story. I may have shared pieces of it before, but it's what's running (no pun intended) through my mind today, so I want to share it. It holds a lot of parallels to my life, really. And some of you who read this have probably never heard the story of why I run and my emotions behind it. If you know it, well, you can skip this blog!
I set out on my run today and it was bitter cold. It was 21, according to the thermometer, but there was a very biting cold wind that went with that. At first when I started out, I dreaded it. But as I got going, I was actually smiling and it turned out to be a fantastic run.
 Some say that because I am slow, I can't really say I'm a runner. Some say I should be faster after all this time. some say they are proud of me and think it's great how I get up at the crack of dawn and earlier to run. some love hearing my running stories. I say I will never break any time records; I will never hold the fastest pace for my age bracket; I will never be a Kathryn Switzer or a Hal Higdon (2 famous runners) who write and sell books about running and give advice on the sport; I will never be an olympic athlete with it; I will never even have a "runners body"....but I say I don't really care. Because I am a runner. And I love it.
 I started running in 2008. My first exposure to the sport was at the Air Force Marathon. I worked for Starbucks at the time and we provided coffee for the VIP tent, which happened to be at the finish line. Coincidentally, the first aid tent was also near by, so I saw a lot of emotions cross that area. I watched overweight people cross and then cry; I watched young, fast runners break a PR; I saw old men and women cross the line, hands in the air in victory; I sat on the side and witnessed  runners throw up near me after finishing 26.2 miles. ; I saw it all....and I fell in love with it. I sat there and said "I"m going to do a half marathon in the Spring (it was September when I said this). Others were supposed to join me in this, but little by little, I was left alone in the endeavor.
Mind you, I'd never run. So to say I was going to do this, well, it was kind of crazy. The first time I went out, I couldn't even do a mile. My little brother, a Marine Drill Instructor, came home on a break and went out with me. I thought I was going to die. He was lying to me about our distance and so I actually went further than I thought...but it was worth it. He taught me a lot of tips I still carry in my running today. I still love (and hate) running with him. He laughs and says to me " I though we were going for a RUN....." because my "run" is really more like a fast jog, but he laughs and pats me on the back and pushes me every time just enough ....and is a big encourager through the whole process. ( He probably wouldn't be a brother...or a USMC...without a bit of sarcasm.)
 I fell in love with the sport. And for the first time in my life...I mean really and truly...I learned the depth of what I could do. And I learned to stop saying " I can't." running has taught me I can do anything I put my mind to. And any time I doubt that, I look back at my starting running and where I am now, and I remember I just have to put my mind to it.
 I remember mom laughing in encouragement and saying "Of all my children, I never thought you'd be the one running marathons." It was pretty funny and pretty true...I really am (or was??) the most un-athletic of us 4. I still don't think I fall into the athletic category....but I pretend to. Mom was also my biggest encourager through it all.
May came around and I ran my first race ever...a half marathon. 13.1 miles. My goal was just to finish. And I did, just under 3 hours. I don't care if that is slow-I did something I never thought I'd ever do. And it was amazing. I have some pretty silly stories from that first race. And some pretty amazing memories.I love doing it over and over and over.
 Through my runs, I have had some of the best talks with God. I have screamed at the top of my lungs at Him. I have cried when I've run, talking to God about life. I have laughed. I have spent many hours talking to Him when I run. I get to soak Him in. It's part of why I love to run. I am closer with my creator. Through His creation. But also through the quiet. And the time alone I so rarely find anymore. Running allows that. And I love it.
 Running has helped me battle my depression. Yes, I have depression. I don't talk about it in every day normal conversation. I don't even blog about it, really. But it seems appropriate in this blog. Depression is a  very real sickness. A lot of people find it a silly diagnosis, especially in Christian circles. I am telling you right now, it is very real. I was officially diagnosed in 2008....right around the time I started running. Running has helped battle it. I tried denying it; I tried not being on medication; I tried to do anything I could to say I didn't have depression. I didn't talk about it a's not often talked about in Christian circles. Some say if you have Jesus, you can't have depression. I say, I have depression and Jesus is my biggest advocate at my side helping me through it, knowing how real it is. I have learned the depth of His love and grace deeper because I battle it. Anyway, running helps it be less severe. The more I run, the better I am. It has to do with the brain, the endorphins and the connections exercise has in helping battle mental sicknesses. I also have anxiety attacks. That is yet another scary thing to put out there for anyone to read. But, running helps my anxiety levels tremendously. I know on days I don't run my anxiety level is higher. More easily triggered. When I run, it helps the anxiety a lot. If I know there is going to be a tough day ahead of me (say, a day that will trigger memories with mom or maybe something tough coming up at work...) I make it a point of it being a running day-even if it just is one mile. Running helps me tremendously to fight these things. Running literally puts a smile on my face. (As a side note, I thought I'd share that the dr. does not think I will battle this all my life....but for now, I do. and for now, God is helping me through it, as well as some really great people. And if you want to know more about my story on this, I'd be happy to share, just ask.)
 Running has helped me in my grief process. It's been as much a part of my grief process as this blog has. When I run, I sometimes cry. I sometimes laugh. I often times remember. I pray. I talk to mom. I hear her encouraging words. Running has helped me get through it just a little bit better.
  I have totally fallen in love with the sport. I have pounded the pavement now for 3 1/2 years, and with each step I run, there is usually some type of emotion behind it: be it grief, prayers, sadness, laughter, childlike giddiness, pure joy, pure exhaustion, or just determination.....I have learned a lot about myself through it. And that is a portion of my running story.
 I will never be the greatest at it, but that is ok. I have developed some lifelong friends through it and because of it and strengthened new friendships because of it: Kristin, Rob, Mike, Kathy, Min, Tiffany, to name just a few.
 Here are a few pictures to show you some of where I started to where I am today...Sorry for the length of this blog-you can see I am passionate about this activity. It's not for everyone....but then again, I never thought it would be for me either!!! It doesn't define me , nor is it the most important thing in my life. It's just something I love to do.One day at a time, I just keep enjoying it. And learning through it.
 This was my snowy view on my run today.
  This was a race I ran literally 2 weeks to the day after my mom died. I'd been signed up for months and decided to still run it because I knew she'd want me to. It was a pretty tough race for me.
  This was Akron 2011. Not my best time at all, but still a lot of fun, especially discovering a new friend , Kathy, here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Revolving door of change

I have tried to write this blog for over a week now. My mind is so full...I think I am thinking too hard on this one! But that's just mind is full.
 I have "change" on the mind. I have been thinking about that mostly because it's one of a few constant in life. That seems like an oxymoron (sp?) but it is so very true. Change is one thing I can always count on...especailly when I am beginning to be comfortable. And I am little by little beginning to embrace changes.
 It's also been a conversation I've had with more than one person lately. Mostly about how I have personally changed in the last few years specifically, but I'd say especially in the last year. I don't think it's possible to go through an experience of saying goodbye to someone you so desperately love without changing. I think if I didn't change through this experience of losing my mom, I wouldn't be normal.
 How I have changed has affected a lot of my relationships. I won't launch into every detail of every one, but it's been something I've pondered a lot lately. It's also interesting to think about how many new friendships I have developed since having lost mom-and those friends never knew me before the experience.  I have lost some friends I had before mom's death-partially because of  changes in life (like job, moves, etc) but also because they weren't sure how to handle the changes in me. Grief is a very long process. And the first 6 months of that some degree stood the test of some true friendships.
 Those who've met me since don't have a "me" to compare to before the experience of grief I've been walking through. Though the more they are getting to know me, the better they are seeing when I am having an off day.
 Change has driven wedges in relationships that are relationships I wish would only grow from the changes.
 Change has opened doors to friendships I never would have experienced with out-like my one friend, Christa, who lost her mom the same week I lost mine.
 This is a blog that is so hard to put into words, but it is a deep impression in my heart and mind lately. Sometimes we can take changes and use them for our good-become better. I want to be doing that daily. I want to laugh more. I love to laugh-over the last few years, you could say I have become a lot more serious. I think I am working on that change. Changes can be used for good to strengthen relationships. I can become a better woman. A better child of God. Sometimes change can also harden a heart. I have been down that road before-more than once. When we moved from Florida to Ohio, I spent some time with that change on the ugly side. But now I love being here-it's become a great change. One I can see God's hand in daily. When mom was dying and after her death, I processed, but there were days that the change was bad. There were days it was hard to pick up my feet and function.
 I believe overall---over the course of some really yucky events the last 5 years---God is using these changes to teach me about Himself. How He is my One constant. How He loves me, especially when changes are going on. How His grace is so abundant and sufficient.
 I don't always apply those things well, but I sure am working on it.
 I have another change lingering. Sometimes I think I am crazy for the things that I pursue. But I also have learned through all this to really embrace life. And so I am beginning the pursuit of another dream of mine-going back to school. I have a plan laid out with an academic advisor for roughly the next year. It's a bit daunting at moments to think about what change this will bring about ....but I am excited.
 I miss my mom a lot today. I've had a sadness of sorts over it today that I haven't had for a while. Not a crying sadness...just a "hole" is there sadness . School was always something I talked about with mom. She knew it was a dream of  mine to go back. She also was one of my biggest advocates for going back-as she was with anything I wanted to pursue. And as she got more and more sick, I'd talk to her about it more. In fact, if I hadn't seen her be cared for by the Occupational Therapist, I may never have chosen that route. But I am so excited about this. I watched them take care of mom...and fell in love with their job. I talked to mom with a new excitement about school after that. She couldn't speak, but her support showed through her eyes. I sat in my car and talked to her all the way home from the meeting. To those of you who have never done such a thing...don't judge me:) I think  mom could hear. I sure missed talking about it over coffee with her, though. We shared a lot of coffee chats. If mom hadn't had cancer and hadn't had an OT, maybe I never would've found what i really want to do. I'm not saying I'm glad she did...but I'm just saying, maybe that was one of the small purposes in her sickness .
 Change is happening. And it will continue to happen. It's a revolving door, really.I'm trying my best to embrace it and grow with it and allow God to shape me through every aspect of it. But as change happens, there is one thing that doesn't change, that stays the same yesterday , today, and forever...and that is my God.  I'd be lost without knowing Him.  He reminds me of that through these changes even. I'm continuing to adjust to mom being gone. It'll probably be a lifelong process. But I'll keep adjusting one day at a time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reflecting and Growing

It's February 1, and here in Ohio, we are experiencing crazy warm winter weather. I am sitting outside with no jacket on-my thermometer says 62. The sun is shining and it is beautiful out. I have deep joy. It is such a contrast from a year ago. A year ago it was snowing and cold. And my heart was so full of pain I could hardly breathe sometimes. God has brought me so far from there. It's not good to dwell in the past; it is, however, sometimes good to reflect on the past and understand how far God takes you from point A to B. I can't say even still that I understand why God chose to let mom's cancer take her, but i can say that I can testify to how far He has brought me through all of it. I am choosing to be a bit raw with you today. I am choosing to share a few excerpts from my journal  a year ago. It is sort of tough to do so, but I am choosing to because I want to give God glory for how far He has brought me.  So here are some words from my heart a year ago.
  January 12,2011. Mom is home now. SHe is very quiet, but she is better spirits now that she's home.Having her home is good.She is under hospice care now.The dr. has said 2-3 months probably.I'll gladly take each day with her I can have.She doesn't talk about it much.It's like the elephant in the room.I still hate that this is happening, but I'm beginning to accept it better.The kids are grasping the death concept a little more, as they have asked a lot of questions.The concept of a funeral is a bit more confusing to them.

January 20,2011. The snow is falling heavy. It is pretty.I wish I felt the joy of it more.I'm tired, stressed, and sad. This week I went back to work full time since mom lost her speech and the brain tumors were discovered in November.I'm exhausted.I've been working with Red Cross to get Tim home for a little bit of time.I handle a lot of those things to take them off dad so he can focus on mom.I'm ok with that. I'm just very weary.Mom had her birthday the other day. Most likely it'll have been her last. sometimes it's hard to look at the day as joyful to have that day and not "Oh, this is the last birthday with mom" type of thought. I pray God will change that in me.

January 25,2011. I'm sitting alone in Panera. That is something I do so rarely. But I just need a few minutes to myself. No customers. No demands. No house chores. No family. and NO CANCER. Just a few minutes to myself so very needed. I can pray. I can reflect. And I can journal. I'm very sad. The last couple of days have been really hard for me. Mom is getting worse.She is confused more and more.Yesterday she didn't know how to play UNO. That was heartbreaking, especially because we love games so much. She is confused how to use the DVD player and TV. She needs someone to sit with her.She sleeps a lot and has a lot of stomach problems.She's still eating, but not a lot........I've been going through pictures, preparing for the funeral, so when the time does come, it won't be as overwhelming.I'm really sad. REady to let go in some ways, yes, but still very sad. I spent a lot of time on the phone the last week with Red Cross, getting Tim home for emergency leave(from the USMC). He is home right now. It's so good to have him here. 

My, how God has brought me so far from those days. Those were such painful moments. Moments I wouldn't trade, though. It was in that time that I learned the value of living life one day at a time.Today, with the sun shining, as I've been reflecting, I thank God for continuing to show me Himself. I think He has grown me in deeper ways that never could've happened without this experience. He's opened doors of opportunity with things like Relay for Life and meeting people I never would've known otherwise. I see God In the little things-like the sun in February. Or a compliment that was very unexpected. Or a friendship developed that makes a big difference. Or a hug. There are still painful moments. Lately there have been a lot of little reminders of mom-things that pop out at me and make me miss her quite unexpectedly. I think that will probably always happen. But even in those moments, I know God is there. He promised He would never leave me nor forsake me. I've seen that. One day at a time.