To say that I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last couple of years may, in fact, be the understatement of the century.
I could list all of the things that I’ve learned, but that might a) be the longest blog post in history and b) likely result in me forgetting what the topic is about one third of the way in.
Which…I suppose could be comical?
Regardless, today I’ll focus on just one thing that I’ve learned.
Only one, but it’s pretty important.
I’ve learned how I grieve.
More specifically, I’ve learned TO grieve.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life pushing through difficulty, in the hopes that if my hamster wheel kept spinning, that I wouldn’t have to feel, or hurt, or miss.
It works for awhile. Living the numb life has its perks.
But inevitably, loss comes back to bite you. You can’t just ignore and “keep on trucking” through things that hurt.
And, perhaps the most important lesson — that’s ok.
It’s ok to hurt, it’s how we grow.
In fact, I may go so far as to say we HAVE to hurt to grow. How else will we know what we are capable of? How will we know what is truly important? Without the disappointment and the loss, how do we find the motivation to aim higher?
Grieving, for me, is a solo act. Almost subconsciously, I retreat.
And the funny thing is, it takes me by surprise every time.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that most people know why they are curled up on the couch contemplating life.
Puhlease people. Have you read this blog?
I generally don’t fit the mold.
Frankly, I usually figure out that my brain is full of questions when I notice that I haven’t blogged in awhile. When I find every excuse in the world not to sit down and do something that I love, then I know it’s time for a deep heart to heart with myself.
Lately, my brain has been on an endless noodling cycle of “where do I go from here?”
I have had time to grieve the loss of my beloved teaching career.
Or rather, been forced to. Finding the contents of 7 years of teaching in your office closet will do that to you.
And truthfully, I know I’m still in the process of letting that go. I’m not in a rush, I know it will be awhile.
But what I haven’t ever really sat down and thought about is what happens if I never get the other pieces of my “former” life back?
I don’t mean that to sound depressing. I mean to convey the simple conundrum of the situation.
What do you do when everything that defined you, is no longer a part of your life?
My life has been on hold since 2011. I’ve had, ya know, a couple of things going on.
Just organ loss and medical mysteries, no biggie.
But I think subconsciously I always thought that I would go through all of these hospital days/months/years in order to erase everything, and settle right back into my life as I left it.
Not exactly how that all worked out.
I know that I’m on this journey to learn, and grow, and find out who I really am. And I know that I have unearthed new passions and firmly established what is truly most important to me in this beautiful, crazy life.
But what I’m still figuring out is what to do with the things that I’ve left behind?
Spring for me has always been the season of running. Going all the way back to the Penn Wynne Elementary School Olympics, spring was a time to RUN.
And you are, by the way, reading the blog of the 5th grade high jump champion. Praying Mantis legs do indeed come in handy in the scissor kick. Penn Wynne Penguins represent.
Anyway — SPRING. RUNNING. (Do you SEE why I get nothing done??)
I happen to keep good company with a lot of runners. In fact, many of my close friends are runners, which has always worked out well for moments when I completely nerd out about the latest edition of Runner’s World, or I want to talk about every detail of an upcoming race.
And lately, my husband has taken up running.
He has worked SO hard, and I am incredibly proud of him. He has found a dedication and determination that I don’t think he knew he possessed, and I am his absolute #1 fan.
But I would be lying if I didn’t say that watching my partner do something that was formerly “my thing” hit me hard.
I missed everything — the long weekend runs, the training plans, the feeling of walking through the door after a great run, and the feeling of walking through the door after a bad one. I missed the feeling of losing yourself in your run, and I even missed the early alarm clock times and the sore feet.
I had never experienced running on the other side. I had never stayed behind while the other person went out in terrible weather to run (and consequently, had never experienced the worry of when they would return). I had never felt like an outsider in the running community. I had never even been a spectator at a race.
So I had to figure it out, and through that process, I had to grieve.
I had to hurt a little, in order to learn a lot.
Running may not be over for me forever, only time will tell how that card will play out.
But I want to stay in the present, to live in the current, beautiful, moment.
And right now, I may not be able to do what I know so well, but there are still many things that I can do. I know now that life is beckoning me to dip my praying mantis legs into new endeavors, and I am eager to see where they take me.
On Sunday afternoon, I took myself on my own little Boston Marathon. I dragged out the old (terrifyingly tight) sports bra and my favorite running socks, and I ran 800 meters. I could barely breathe, everything hurt, my feeding tube was bleeding, my right eye was blurred, and it was a 50:50 chance on my lunch staying put.
In short, it was the most enjoyable half mile of my life.
I ran for the lives lost and forever changed at last year’s marathon.
I ran for my friends and family running this year’s marathon after months of training.
I ran to know that I am still part of something bigger.
I ran for my heart.
And best of all, for the very first time, I ran alongside my husband. Side by side, we finished my little mini (very mini) marathon, and then he continued on and I started my extraordinarily slow, and a smidge painful, walk home.
It may have been my farewell tour. It may have marked a temporary hiatus. But in my heart and mind, I am and always will be a runner.