I write because it reminds me of where I've been and gives light to my current path. I run because it keeps me moving forward. And I welcome you here because I believe it's through community that we truly find God's grace in the midst of our struggles.
Today as per my Train Like a Mother Half Marathon: Finish It Training Plan I completed an 11 mile run. In the 27 degree cold. Up hills and around ice patches. Through as yet unmelted snow. It was my longest run yet and for at least the first 10k it was the fastest I've ever gone. It was definitely one of those mind over body runs. And it felt fabulous.
In fact, it felt a lot like this:
Thanks to @hcunninghamrd for this inspiration!
I saw this image posted on Twitter earlier in the day and it was stuck in my mind throughout my run. Each time I hit a patch of snow or felt overwhelmed by the cold I got a burst of energy as this photo and the accompanying slogan played again in my head. Even though for me running isn't about "earning a body", the sentiment is the same - it is hard work and there is a reward. I am loving the challenge of training for a half marathon and the places I have found support along the way. As I prepare to enter my 10th week of training I couldn't be happier for the ways I have found inspiration in the doldrums of this season. Winter running just feels bad ass and there is no describing what it does to my body and my spirit.
One drawback of the winter though, has been the shortened daylight hours. When I left for the run it was late in the afternoon and my little guy was taking his nap. By the time I got back the sun had just about set and the full moon had started to take its place in the sky. He was very excited to show it to me even though what my body wanted to do was curl up in a ball under an electric blanket (do people still have electric blankets?). Instead, I checked out the moon with him while I sucked down a glorious glass of chocolate milk.
Sometime shortly after dinner, a great running day got even better. It was then that I experienced a proud Mother Runner moment that is making me teary eyed all over again just thinking about it. Domani was talking with my Dad and and my Dad was asking him about what kind of sports he wants to play when he gets older. Dad was rattling off a list of possibilities and Domani just blurted out "I want to run like Mommy!" Seriously. Without prompting. (Well, unless you count the fact that I had just gotten back from a run about 45 minutes before.)
It was priceless. And, apparently, it set off some sort of trigger in his mind because he proceeded to run off into the living room and then showed up wearing my sneakers and trying to stuff a phone into my armband. When he noticed that I was there watching him, he looked me right in the eye and said "READY TO RUN, MOMMY!" (And, yes, he was so excited that he was basically yelling it.) When I asked him where we were going to run he told me that we were going to his cousins' house (which by the way is about 21+ miles away...) Apparently, not only am I raising a runner, but I'm training a little marathoner. Love this little guy. I guess that means I better put a marathon on my own schedule at some point in the future :-)
It was MLK Day 2010 and I found myself in our bathroom with an at home pregnancy test barely able to believe what I was seeing. I mean, really, we had JUST started trying. Apparently, you might as well just change my name to Fertile Myrtle. I just wasn't expecting it to happen so quickly and I knew Joe wasn't either. For about a minute I contemplated telling him in some cutesy way, but instead went right into the bedroom where he was and let him know that in about 9 months he was going to be a dad. His reaction was pretty much the same as mine. Not quite sure what to make of it all, we decided to go out for lunch. We went to a favorite spot of ours, Lisco's Country Cafe (which is now sadly closed) and didn't talk much about our big news. Had we known what the rest of the week had in store for us, I'm sure we would have appreciated the news for the miracle it was, but on that Monday, it was scary and big and we were second guessing whether we were really ready.
Fast forward to Wednesday morning. It was January 20th. I was out of the house early because we had a big meeting in Trenton and I had to be there to assist with signing in attendees. A month earlier I had left my position working at the Local and started working for the National Union. This was the first big meeting I had been a part of since joining the National Staff and I was trying to be as helpful as possible. My cell phone was in my purse which I left under a table because we were busy signing in and distributing materials to hundreds of attendees. After about an hour and a half or so I checked my phone. There were many missed calls from Joe. I listened to the first of the voicemails and it was enough to send me into a panic (this, by the way, is why I now always keep my cell phone with me). Thankfully, I was able to get him on the phone relatively quickly. He was in the ER. He needed the health insurance information since he had just been added to my plan and we didn't even have the insurance cards yet. They didn't know what was wrong with him, but anything serious enough for my husband to call an ambulance raised an immediate red flag for me.
The next 24 hours were a flurry of doctors and nurses, hospital rooms and waiting rooms, coffee and vending machine food, and very little sleep. After initially thinking in the ER that Joe was suffering from diverticulitis, by the end of Wednesday night he was recovering from emergency colon surgery and we had nothing to do but anxiously await the results of pathology tests. Some parts of that Wednesday are still as clear in my mind as if they had happened yesterday. I remember sitting in the hallway of the ER with Joe waiting for him to be admitted (unfortunately, this would not be our last time sitting in an ER hallway waiting for admission). I remember being in the hospital room with Joe just before he was wheeled off for his surgery. I remember lots of things about the waiting room while Joe was having his surgery - I ate dinner from Mexican Village there and we prayed with Eric, the Pastoral Assistant from my church who came by to be with us. I also spoke with my friend Karen who had lost her son to colon cancer just a few months before. Her son's diagnosis story was similar to what had happened with Joe and it was a blessing that she was available to talk to me while I was waiting for him to be done in surgery.
The next two days were rough. I spent one of the nights curled up in the chair in Joe's hospital room because I couldn't bear to sleep away from him. Since that resulted in me not actually sleeping, I didn't do it again, but the frustrating dance of trying to be there at just the right time to see the doctors when they came by was exhausting. Finally, at the end of the day on Friday, we got a visit from the doctor who did his surgery. She explained that Joe had colon cancer and that it had already spread to his lymph nodes and liver. The only other thing I clearly remember her saying (if you've seen the movie 50/50 it felt much like the scene where Joseph Gordon Levitt's character gets his diagnosis) was NOT to go searching online for survival rates because there are amazing things that are being done and Joe is young and strong. I searched anyway. Almost instantly I wished I had listened to her. The statistics for metastatic colon cancer are not good. So there we were - five days into knowing we were pregnant with our first child and hours into knowing Joe had stage 4 colon cancer. I found myself thanking God that I was a Fertile Myrtle and telling Joe again and again that I needed him to recover from his surgery and be with me through the pregnancy and birth.
What was big and scary on Monday was a blessing beyond words by Friday. Funny how that can happen.
It all happened this week 3 years ago and the events of that week have completely changed my life. I guess it's not surprising then that as Monday comes and then Wednesday and then Friday, I will notice. And in my own way I will re-live this week. And I will embrace this quote from Anne Lamott that I posted on my Facebook page that following Sunday:
"This is the most profound spiritual truth I know: that even when we're most sure that love can't conquer all, it seems to anyway. It goes down into the rat hole with us, and there it swells and comforts. It gives us second winds, third winds, hundredth winds."
I can't tell you how many times over the last 3 years I have felt like I was in the rattiest rat hole of them all. Every time and I mean every damn time there has been some thing or some person or some sign or some act of love that has swelled and comforted. It wasn't always instantaneous. It wasn't always obvious. It wasn't always what I would have chosen. But it always gave me another wind.
So, if you are in need of that today, open yourself up to it. And if you are feeling led to do it for someone else, please don't delay.
As a part of worship this morning in church each attendee received an Epiphany star with a different word written on it. Before receiving the "2013" word, members of the congregation shared their 2012 words and the meaning those words came to hold for them throughout the last year. Sprinkled with humor and tears, and overflowing with the profound, this was one of the most powerful communal reflections I have ever witnessed. By the end, I was beyond eager to receive my 2013 word.
I was sitting in the last pew of the church and as I watched the basket being passed a word flashed in my mind. The word was "love". That brought a tear to my eye. It is one of my hopes for this year. And then, from out of nowhere a song popped in my head. Truth be told, it wasn't really from out of nowhere because it's a song that seemed to pop up all over the place during 2012 - that Don't Stop Believin' song. The one that propels me when running or lifts my spirits on a dreary day working at the airport. My moment finally came and I picked the star off the top of the basket. And then the tears just came.
Yep, my word was "belief". Seriously. Really. I almost couldn't BELIEVE it. But I had to, because, you know, my word was BELIEF, after all. If this is any indication of the year ahead of me, I better buckle up and get ready for the ride.
Already today that little word propelled me through a cold, muddy, 9-mile trail run. What a powerful little word! (Don't stop believin' - hold on to the feelin') I can't wait to see what it has in store for the remaining 359 days of 2013.
As I started reflecting on 2012 I came to the realization that I have gone a whole calendar year as a single person. Widowed. Not in a relationship. Unattached. Checking that box that coincides with not married. Alone. I also realized that it has been a certain brand of shall we say EXTREME SINGLENESS as in the haven't-even-been-kissed-sort AND that I haven't gone a whole calendar year as a single person since I was in high school. Those were all pretty striking realizations for me.
If you had told me last New Years Eve that I would be spending this New Years Eve without a significant other I probably would have been pretty sad. Last New Years was tough for me. I missed kissing my Joe at midnight and falling asleep next to him. If you had told me last year that come January 1, 2013 I would *still* be single, it would have been a hard pill to swallow and would have left me even more fearful of 2012. But something amazing happened this past year and I'm glad I didn't go into it with a crystal ball.
The truth is that I didn't even notice my singleness until the end of the year. Now, don't get me wrong. There were plenty of times when I was lonely and plenty of times when I missed Joe. There was even a moment in time around August when I realized that I am open to another relationship if the right guy in the right circumstance comes along. But in looking back over this year, I have realized that my singleness in 2012 has allowed space for so many other things. And that has been amazing.
-A stronger Mother/Son bond. My relationship with the little guy has deepened during this time when it has been "just the two of us". During those traditional "family" times like Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings, it is now the two of us so we are spending more time cuddling, playing, even just vegging out in front of the TV. That time has been invaluable.
-Deeper friendships and new friends. This year I have been able to pay more attention to some of the important friendships in my life and welcome new friends into my life. Afghan Whigs fan friends. Runner friends. Mother friends. Afghan Whigs Mother Runner friends. I know that I have formed some lasting friendships which will last through life's ups and downs and I know that's what really matters.
-Running. I started in the spring as a way to get back in shape and found not only a way to improve my health but a healthy way to work through my grief. In mid-August, I started on some regular training runs and since then I have logged 159 miles. In March, I will run my first ever half marathon and in 2013 I have set a goal of running a total of 13 races. Running and the people I have met through running have been such a positive force in my life this year.
-Spiritual growth and discernment. I'm thankful for the spaces and people who have led me deeper in my faith this year. They have challenged me to keep moving forward in my grief journey while allowing me to be honest with what I am experiencing. Spiritual direction. Grief support groups. My church's praise band. Other places of worship I have visited. Even sermons and blogs I have read on Twitter and Facebook. This has been a tremendous year of self discovery and spiritual growth for me.
-Afghan Whigs Reunion Tour. No point in belaboring this one. If you follow my blog even casually, you know that this has been a centerpiece to my year. I *think* my final show count was 10 and it included travel from Toronto to NOLA to Cincinnati and many spots in between. We capped it off with an epic road trip to the New Years Eve show last night in Cincinnati which may very well be the last time the band ever plays together. These shows were like church for me this year and I'm so thankful I was able to go to so many of them with so many wonderful people.
-Travel. The little guy and I saw Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We visited some spots in Florida that were special to his Dad and me. We took the Maid of the Mist boat cruise to see Niagara Falls. He met Mickey and Minnie and Goofy and Donald and Daisy and Woody and Buzz and the list goes on and on.
-The Mets! The little guy and I brought countless family members and friends to cheer on the Mets this year and win or lose we enjoyed ourselves. We saw R.A. Dickey's 19th win from our seats at Citifield and while we watched Santana's no hitter from my parents' house, it was truly a memorable year to be a Mets fan.
With each of these things I'm not sure I would have ended up where I did in 2012 if not for my singleness. I had space to concentrate on the many parts of my life that exist outside from a romantic relationship. Perhaps, a year of doing that has brought me right to the place to be ready for one in 2013 and maybe the person who is right for me will fit perfectly into my time with the little guy and my friends, will share a similar spiritual journey, will want to travel, will also be a baseball fan, will enjoy running, and will like the Afghan Whigs. Of course, if that's not the case, I'm confident there will be something equally exciting that God will send my way to fill me up. Somehow, empty is never something I have used to describe my life and for that I am thankful.