YMCA Fall Sprint Triathlon 10/18/2014

In the Spring and Fall, our local YMCA organization puts on a triathlon where you swim Friday in the nice indoor pool, then start your bike leg on Saturday morning when the clock hits your swim time (and run after that…naturally).

I signed up for the full sprint distance (750m swim/12.5 mi bike/5k run) in August, ready to start training and confident that I would be ready.

Then I promptly hyper-extended my knee and knocked myself out of running (or walking…or standing…)- at all – for the duration of the training period. Confident that bike training would translate to the run, I put in my time there and in the pool.

I projected half an hour for my swim. (I’ve never been fast). I arrived at the pool with time to spare but the woman in the lane before me was going long. I was supposed to start at 7:05pm. About 7:12, she finally finished. I expected to take half an hour and had people due to show up at my house at 8:00. My timer asked if I wanted to do a couple of warm-up laps but I said “Nope. Let’s get this thing started. I have to GO.”

And go I did. Final time was 21:01. I was just a LITTLE happy with that. Seems time in the pool paid off.

I got home with enough time to tell my kiddo my time, get a cheer and high-five….and the admonition of “You need to change; you smell like sweat & chlorine”. I changed, ran a brush through my damp, chlorine infused hair, threw on a headband and greeted my lovely guests. We sat around the table partaking in amazing conversations and laughter and chili and cupcakes.

I slept fitfully but surprisingly woke up with my alarm feeling well rested. I jumped out of bed…and immediately ran to the restroom for the first of multiple times that hour. My body was not happy with something and was determined to eliminate it by any means necessary. I will spare you the graphic details. But as the clock ticked closer to the time I had determined we needed to leave, I was feeling better. I figured there was nothing left in my system (foreshadowing anyone?) and I would be fine once I got going.

TheKid went with me to the race. We got there early and sat in the van to stay warm until it was time to cluster with everyone else outside of the bike racks. As my stomach started to churn and cramp again, I repeated multiple times “This was probably a mistake.” but then chalked it up to nerves and reassured TheKid that I’d “be fine”. He made it his life’s mission to make me laugh and be goofy with him but I didn’t have it in me. I stood huddled in a jacket with the other racers, vacillating between desperately wishing I was still in bed and looking forward to seeing how the bike work paid off.

I quickly realized the work was not going to pay off. At all. After the first slight incline I started checking gears and trying to figure out why the bike wasn’t moving like it should. A few minutes later I realized the bike was fine. I was not. (See above: nothing left in my system) A guy cruised passed me yelling encouragement. I glared at his rapidly disappearing back. A few minutes later a girl passed me, shooting me a concerned look. She wasn’t moving fast and I decided to keep her within chasing distance. She disappeared just as quickly and not long after, I found out there wasn’t food left in my system so my body was going to eliminate water too. Yay. No fuel. No hydration. It’s the stuff of legendary bonks.

The bike course was 12.5 miles, mostly a square but with two little out and back additions. By the time I got to the first one, I was barely staying hydrated, barely moving and could only focus on my front wheel and the white line. I told the race official “I’m not going to be able to run. And I am most definitely not doing the extra mileage. I’m going back to the start as quickly as possible.” He waved me through, I hiccuped through a few quiet sobs and continued trying to find a gear that didn’t feel like I was pedaling through quick sand.

I spent the rest of the (approximately) 10 miles desperately trying not to weave all over the place because the truck of volunteers picking up cones was following me, very obviously keeping an eye on me. And I was determined that I was going to roll back in under my own power, not in the bed of a truck. That (approximate) 10 miles felt like 100. And felt like I was climbing a steep grade the whole time. It was a miserable long morning. But when I (finally) rolled back into transition, gross, defeated & destroyed, long after everyone else was out on their run, TheKid was standing there waiting. And as soon as I came into view he started jumping up and down and cheering “THAT’S MY MAMA! GOOOOO MOM!” And somehow, that made it better.

I checked in with the race director to make sure she knew my status and that I did not actually complete the bike portion. And then we started the limp to the van. A friend was there watching and he came over to say “hi” and see how I felt. I know we talked. But all I really remember was trying to hand TheKid my bike then realizing I wasn’t sure I could walk entirely un-aided. But by the time TheKid pulled the van into the driveway, I was starting to second guess myself. I had been sitting for a bit, re-hydrating and only slightly nauseous. Then I tried to stand upright, the world tilted alarmingly and I found myself slumped against the side of the vehicle. Soooo yeah. Probably a good thing I stopped when I did.

Surprisingly, it’s only twelve hours since I first arrived at the race site and I feel quite human again. I showered and slept for a couple of hours. I met some friends at a pizza joint to celebrate birthdays and while I avoided pizza, the bread sticks were the BEST THING EVER. I’m able to drink water without my stomach complaining and cramping. And I have realized, as frustrating and painful as the day was, a lot of good came from it too:

1. I realized I do not regret the attempt. At all. I probably would not have been nearly as sick if I had not pushed myself. But if I didn’t start, I would have always second guessed myself.

2. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in training and goals. Those can become so much a part of my identity that I start to weave my own self-worth into them. Having my day destroyed by circumstances  (mostly) outside of my control made me re-evaluate. I could have had a total melt-down, beat myself up, hid in bed, etc. I was on the razor’s edge when I passed the point of no return at that first out and back. As soon I skipped that mileage, I solidified my DNF. And I did cry. I could have easily ridden the spiral down into the pits of disappointment, embarrassment and despair. That incriminating internal voice was ready to deliver be-ratings, to cover me in the labels of “failure” and “worthless” and “hopeless”.  Or. I could embrace the fact that this was my experience for the day. It was painful, and yes – embarrassing. But I could decide how it defines and impacts me. I could take the lessons given to me (don’t eat chili the night before a race?), accept that this was the race I had to give and move on. That’s not to say that I didn’t have to battle that nasty little voice. There were definitely moments I considered sitting down on the side of the road and calling TheKid to come get me. And when I had to get off and walk up a fairly small incline because I could not physically push the pedals in the easiest gear I had…well….I was NOT saying anything positive in that moment…either verbally or mentally.

There are times I can honestly say  I was physically doing everything I possibly could…and there are moments I look back and wonder…maybe…did I have a little extra speed in me? But in the end, my child cheered un-embarrassed, despite the situation. And this afternoon I sat surrounded by friends who, when hearing that I did not finish, simply said “I’m so sorry. How are you doing now?” They were not disappointed IN me. They were disappointed FOR me. They do not love me any less and the only way a race is going to impact our relationship is if I let training take priority over them.

My legs are absolutely destroyed. It’s oddly a reassurance that my body really was as thrashed as it felt at the time. I’m giving myself today and tomorrow to lick my wounds, bandage my pride and recover. Monday I’ll be back in the pool. Next week I’ll be back on two wheels. I have the winter to add in strength training & yoga and dial in nutrition. I’ll build a solid base and Spring Sprint, I’ll have my redemption on that course.

Philippine Trip – May 29

(Previous posts are here here here and here)

It’s interesting trying to reconstruct the trip. I vividly remember events but can’t always recall immediately what day it happened. I did not journal as regularly or in as much detail as I should have. While there, I couldn’t imagine that any of it would fade, would feel any less vivid. But it does. Thankfully I posted pretty regularly to a private Facebook group. Between that and my journal, it’s all starting to come back to me.

After the amazing first night, it was easy to bounce out of bed with the super early rising sun. I was eager to see team members from other groups and hear their stories. After breakfast and debriefing, an unscheduled day loomed, open for us to process our first night and recover. I wandered for awhile, bouncing from one already well formed group to another. As the high from the night before ebbed away, I began to doubt my place on the team. I wondered if I had made a mistake in signing up, if I was just dead weight. I could clearly see the gifts shining from my team members and the connections they were forming with each other and I felt increasingly lonely, isolated and useless. I wanted to go home so I messaged a good friend in Boise even though I knew she was  asleep then went back to my room to listen to worship music & try to journal. (“Dear God – I don’t want to do this anymore. This hurts. I’m uncomfortable. For all the amazing stories last night & the obvious cover you had over us, I still feel lost & discouraged and well, yeah. Lost. I am surrounded by these amazing women with amazing gifts and I…I’m just…me. With nothing to offer.”) It didn’t help much at all. One of our worship leaders was holding a worship/prayer session in her room before dinner so I found a spot to sit on one of the beds for the last half hour and at least felt like I could go to dinner without sucking the life out of everyone around me. I put on my happy, team player face and joined everyone to celebrate a birthday

When we finally finished dinner, we formed small groups to visit the bars. We did not necessarily end up the same as the previous night but I had Melissa as a leader and Kaylee was with us again. We added two other girls and started walking towards the main strip with another group. As we navigated the dark, trash filled sidewalks, I found myself walking alone and becoming swamped with negativity & doubt. Suddenly a woman from the other group, Anjel, appeared beside me. I absolutely adored her (still do) but we had not spent much time together on the trip. She was part of the small group that left ahead of us and they were pretty tightly bonded. Regardless, she showed up at my side and said “God put you on my heart during worship. He said to tell you that you are unstoppable. You are a vital part of this team. We need Mama Rhoni & so do the girls. You’re here for a reason.” I had told no one on that side of the globe the thoughts & feelings I was battling. And yet God used her to speak EXACTLY what I needed to hear, at exactly the right moment. We walked a little further together, me sobbing-ly telling her what I had dealt with all day* until her group leader stopped at this little hole in the wall bar, several blocks off the main strip and announced she felt like we needed to go in. All 8 (10?) of us piled in. I think there were more of us than girls working. There were definitely more of us than customers and we crowded the place. But lo and behold, on stage stood one of the girls the long term missionaries had met and had been trying to find since. They reconnected while the rest of us drank mango juice and learned how to request the check Filipino style.

Our groups went our separate ways after that. We went to a night club and danced with some girls before going to the second largest club on the strip. Somehow we ended up with 5-7 girls clustered around us, talking and laughing. There were some heartbreaking moments of conversation (“What do you do for fun?” Girl – “Well. Sometimes work is fun. My friends are here. But mostly I don’t like it. Some other bars are boring though.”) (After talking about Wipe Every Tear and the opportunity to go to school, the question “What would you like to study?” was met with a blank look and shrugs…they had never even considered it. Why bother?) Somehow we all ended up hand in hand with a girl, being pulled downstairs…and then up on stage, center of the bar, to dance with them. It happened so quickly but as my new friend tugged me up the stage stairs, grinning with a honestly joyful smile, I felt a moment of trepidation. Surely the manger and/or owner wouldn’t allow this? We were about to be kicked out and the girls punished. Would there be consequences for us? But we danced. And we slipped invitation cards to other girls. And we whispered hope and options to them as we clumsily moved about the stage, giving them the chance to dance – not for the pleasure of someone else – but for pure fun.

Nothing happened.  We did not gyrate. We did not dance in any way that could be considered suggestive. We were all hyper aware of that. But the customers either ignored us…or cheered. The manager watched us but did not intervene. The waitresses actually lit up and laughed. We only stayed onstage that one song and left the bar soon after, a trail of invitations to the Getaway in our wake. We stood outside for a moment, soaking in what had just happened. Melissa summed it up with a stunned “Well. That was a first.”

I honestly can’t remember if we went elsewhere after that. I messaged my husband when we got back “Home from the bars. Danced on stage.” and found it incredibly humorous. And then I slept, hard, until the sun rose again, incredibly early.

*We quickly learned if one of us was struggling, someone else in the group was having the exact same doubts, fears and negativity. We learned we suffered most when we started comparing our gifts and purposes with those who seemed…MORE (usually EVERYONE ELSE ON THE TEAM) and when we compared our experiences with those of others (“She had more of an impact/touched more hearts/etc etc…) The lies were insidious and I am thankful for a team that was willing to be open and vulnerable to combat them. Twenty plus girls worked together for two weeks and there was absolutely zero interpersonal drama that I know of.

 

Torn

I know I promised more posts about the trip. I’ve started to write a few times but I’m struggling to put words on paper that even begin to convey the experience. I CAN tell you that Wipe Every Tear now has THREE safe houses. THREE. To house 33 girls. Thirty. Three. An overwhelmingly amazing number. I’m just…astounded by these turn of events. So many girls that I have met and love now safely reside in a home with women who support and encourage them. These girls have left behind a lifestyle where they were used and abused, a life of disregard and hopelessness. They now have the opportunity to go to school, to build a new life for not only themselves but their families – present and future.  And every time I consider this, every time I see posts, pictures, or videos from them, every time I think about them, I miss them and the Philippines just a little bit more.

This feeling of being torn between two countries discomforts me.  There’s plenty to love about being in the US, in Boise especially. The air is clean and clear. The skies are brilliant blue, the sun blazing. The colors are vibrant. My family is here and I kinda like them. I have beloved friends here. And yet… in my sanitized little corner of America, my senses are almost unbearably quiet. In the Philippines I was constantly awash in smells – city scents of sewage & sweat, street side bakeries & food vendors, exhaust & trash and beach side scents of the sea and jungle flowers…and still sweat albeit less pungent. The Philippines is also a constant cacophony whether in the city or on the beach. And I do mean constant, 24/7, noise. Vehicles and stray animals, roosters and people – it all mixes and merges into a wall of sound that rises and falls like the tides, just as constant and eventually, just as soothing.While at times during my two-week jaunt I craved the calm of home, now I often feel the weight of the quiet, a pressure on my ears as if blankets have been held firmly over them. I catch myself breathing deeply, more deeply than ever before. Partially my lungs are enjoying the lack of pollution but I’m also striving to catch the hint of something…the astringency of vinegar or sweetness of coconut bread or even the pungency of sewage.  Primarily though, primarily I miss the people…the constant presence of people. There is so much emptiness and space here. We reside in a culture of “bubbles” that does not translate there. It was not unusual to be touching someone most of the time. “Squeeze squeeze” was a common refrain as we fit more people in a vehicle than seemed possible and to a limit that would be considered foolish here. It was more unusual NOT to feel someone close to you or be engulfed in an enthusiastic hug or to have a hand clasped in yours.

Please understand I am not saying that one culture is “better” than the other. I adjusted well to the Filipino culture and almost immediately; it fits my personality. That obviously would not be the case for everyone. But I found the culture, the peoples, the little bit of the country that I experienced…I found it beautiful. In particular the people….such extraordinary people. I think I could be okay with loving another country. But to love people in America AND love people across the world…that’s difficult. My team and the girls (we traveled to meet) lived together, in close quarters, for two weeks. Now we’re confined to electronic communication, separated by a vast distance. My American family and friends are here and that is joyful but that joy does not diminish the ache of missing my Filipino loves.

I don’t have a point to this. And I realize this still tells you absolutely nothing about the trip and what we did or our purpose. But I needed to explain why I might sometimes seems disquieted and distant. Why sometimes I obsessively check Facebook and Instagram feeds, why I constantly think in two time zones. Because part of me still lives in that time zone, with those people. I may still have the complexion of a red-head but part of my heart is Filipino.

A plan for us all

Stacey over at Glitter and Churchy Church published a post today that spurred me to edit/publish one I’ve been sitting on since last weekend when I attended the same conference she talks about. Go read…now or after you finish here. Whatever. But go read. She took a short term mission trip and used it to fuel her passion AND actions.  (By the way, she pulls off that signature look she mentions in a FANTASTIC way.)

So there was a Human Trafficking 101 conference here in Boise last weekend. Because, believe it or not, human trafficking & child exploitation happens right here, in our safe/clean/beautiful/boring town. I went in looking for resources and action steps more than information. I’ve read and watched and seen the statistics. I have the information. But what I didn’t have was first hand accounts from people who work with this issue on a daily basis. What I didn’t have were the personal stories from my backyard.What I didn’t have were real, local numbers from the offices of warriors in my community. I went in prepared to take notes. I didn’t, convinced that there was no way I’d forget what I’d heard. But driving home I realized I was so overwhelmed, so over-saturated that I could only remember bits and pieces and the emotions. I was exhausted and I couldn’t process or feel anything.  They showed a documentary after the speakers and I just went straight home. I couldn’t handle anything further. And I was frustrated. I wanted action steps. I wanted to sign up to DO something. I work well in a support role…give me papers to files, contact lists to alphabetize & color code, a blog or twitter account to update, a fund raiser to organize. WHERE WAS THE DOTTED LINE TO SIGN UP TO DO SOMETHING?!!?

A week later, I can think more clearly. I can process. I’ve gotten past the sense of overwhelming helplessness and frustration. One thing that we heard multiple times was that the majority (80? 90%?) of girls that are trafficked come from abusive homes/situations. And it’s very easy to take that fact and think “Oh. My daughter/niece/cousin/neighbor doesn’t fall into that category. She’s safe.” But. But. That’s looking at only a portion of what happens. Your loved one may never be physically touched. And for that, I am grateful. Believe me. You may know for 100% certain that she’s in a safe, loving, positive, protected home. There are a LOT of amazing families out there. But there was another aspect the detectives mentioned that never occurred to me. Exploitation. One of them said “Once upon a time you worried about the creepy guy down the street. Now we’re putting computers in every 13 year old’s pocket and we have to worry about every creepy guy IN THE WORLD.” These guys who exploit are are masterminds at manipulation.  And by nature of their development and hormones, even your well adjusted, confident, protected daughter is not 100% safe. She may never be touched by these guys. And that’s GOOD. Please don’t get me wrong. But what happens if they convince her to simply send them a video of her changing. Or a “tastefully sexy” picture. Once that door has been opened, it’s rarely going to stop with “tastefully sexy”. What happens when she realizes what her image has been used for? When she realizes just how many hundreds of thousands of people have seen it? When she realizes as she’s walking down the street that some of these people could recognize her for…that? How is she going to view men now? What kind of damage is being done to her psychologically, emotionally, relationally?

I hear it said all the time that this is a “women’s problem” or a “female problem”. It’s not. I understand where that phrase comes from but our men are hurt by this too. If they are watching porn, their expectations of women and relationships are damaged. If they’re not, it’s often implied they’re “not men”. After all, it’s just natural, right? And what about how the damage to the women affects them. These are future wives and partners. And yet, these children will be running the world we live in. These children will be making decisions that influence us. These children will be raising the next generation. These children are exposed to sex and are more sexualized  than any generation before. On average they are exposed to porn at the age of 11. ELEVEN. When I was in 5th/6th grade, boys and girls were just starting to rediscover each other….by tripping each other and pulling hair and playing chase. The ones who snuck a kiss behind the tree on the playground were publicly tried and found guilty of having cooties. We may have learned what sex was in a very clinical manner at that age…and we were horrified by the idea. Now? Now it’s entertainment and something to experiment with. AT ELEVEN.

Last weekend I was a bit frustrated and a lot overwhelmed & discouraged. I didn’t have an action step. I didn’t have a plan. Over the past week though I’ve realized – we ALL have an action step. Because all of us can influence a child. Rescuing the currently exploited girls (and boys) is important. Please don’t misunderstand. That is INCREDIBLY important. But if we just rescue after the fact, we will never make progress against the problem. There is still demand and there will ALWAYS be someone to utilize. But if we influence our children, if we raise them with knowledge of healthy relationships and to be violently opposed to the very idea of using another human being, then the demand AND the source starts to shrink.

This is a problem for all of us. And we don’t have to be social workers or detectives or on a task force to make a difference.  If you’re a parent, be THAT parent. Be the unreasonable, over protective parent who insists on knowing every password and pass code. Be the nosy parent who reads texts and checks phones and computers. Be the paranoid parent that has tracking/monitoring software on devices. Be the embarrassing parent who insists on having THOSE mortifying conversations.  Be the parent who knows your child and who is influencing them. We don’t have to lock these precious kids in a cellar to protect them. They need to understand the world.  They need to see and experience all the good while still recognizing the negatives….and being equipped to deal with those. But we also can’t give them unlimited and unsupervised exposure. Be involved. (Admission – I don’t do all these things all the time. I’m not a great mother. I know all the areas I could improve. But I can’t give up. You’re not a perfect parent either. It’s okay. Just don’t give up.)

If you’re not a parent, be a mentor and a friend. Be a safe place, a safe person for someone. Be a positive influence, show our children what life CAN be like. They need more than mom and dad….and some don’t even have that positive example to see. My hat is off to the people who face this darkness head on in daily battle. We need them. But we “common people” have a job to do that is just important. We have an action step. We have a place to start.

Cracked and Oozing

I keep thinking I should write more. But I don’t want to primarily share negativity. I want to write uplifting and cheerful and fun words. And when life is uplifting and cheerful and fun, I’m focused on living it, soaking it in. So those experiences and words? They are held close and treasured but rarely shared with a blank page. I hope to remedy that. But herein lies the current problem. Primarily? Mostly?  I’m tired. I’m emotionally exhausted from the strain of decisions made by members of both my immediate family and the one I married into. I’m drained from watching my husband struggle to stand up for what he knows is right while trying to balance the feelings and hurts and relationships of those he loves. I’m frustrated that I can’t help him and that no one else involved seems to feel peace is a priority if it means any kind of sacrifice on their part – all while he is sacrificing his energy and heart. I’m wearied from watching helplessly from a distance as those close to my heart attempt to self-destruct, taking out other loved ones with them. I’m broken hearted from the deluge of news from friends and acquaintances that reverberate through conversations and texts and social media with pain that encompasses the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.  I’m emptied, physically, from the apparent rebellion of my body. And I’m worn down, mentally, from the uncertainty – how will my body react to my former “normal”? Is it really all in my head? Am I losing my mind? Becoming lazy and subconsciously creating an excuse?

I feel cracked, oozing energy at all levels. I looked at the 100 Word prompt thinking I just needed to write SOMETHING and immediately felt as if my brain was wrapped in a thick, suffocating blanket. The idea of anything outside of essential day to day actions just…well… fatigues me.

I want to be support for my husband, not another burden. I want to be loving and attentive wife and mother and sister and daughter and friend. I want to be active. Right now, I’m none of that. I feel as if I’m a shadow, going through necessary actions.

Thankfully everything in life is temporary – highs and lows and every season – it all passes and ripples and morphs into the next phase. I know that. I’m just ready to start reshaping this one, molding it like clay into a more invigorating life (and persona). However, I’m not the Potter. I’m the clay. God doesn’t want life to be lived under my own strength. He doesn’t want me to simply survive situations but to grow closer to Him, become more like Him. The temptation to insulate myself (and my family) rears its head. The desire to “write off” the difficult people and situations sneaks into my spirit. The fantasy of telling people they got themselves into this mess or lambast them for their deficiencies is attractive. But none of that is an option. As quickly as I find those ideas growing, I (try to) uproot and remove them from my psyche. That’s not who I was created to be. I was created to be cracked. I was created to ooze emotions and energy on the behalf of others. I was created to love. And that’s not easy or fun. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not romantic. I might not have the energy to respond to a writing prompt, or write at all. I might not be able to fathom training for a triathlon, or even running a 5k. But I will continue to love. Or at least strive to. But maybe after a nap?

1932-2003

My maternal grandmother would have been 80 today.  She was a very pretty lady, petite and fiery. She didn’t leave her house without dressing properly which meant a skirt…and gloves. I stood many a day on her porch yelling “Mamaw! It’s just me. Would you please let me in?!!?” while hearing her putter around yelling back “Just wait a minute! I have to find my lipstick!”. And ladies? They sat up straight and did NOT pass gas in any manner.

She was an avid reader, a trait she passed on to my mother and me. Her house was crammed with books from the overflowing shelves to novels  scattered on most of the flat surfaces. I grew up staring in wonder at those shelves, often trying to sneak off with one tome or another before she’d take it away. She did release books to me slowly until I was in jr high when she gave me free reign over her collection. I was in grade school when she went back to college but I remember how excited she was. She loved classes, especially writing classes, and she was terribly proud when one of her articles was published in the school newspaper. (Sadly she was unable to finish due to health issues.) She was also an avid Razorback basketball fan and never missed a televised game. She’d sit with one hand marking her spot in a book and a cigarette waving in the other as she yelled encouragement alternately with tirades of frustration at the t.v.

She was a single mother, raising my mother and uncle alone while working as a secretary. As I entered the working world she would look me in the eye and warn “Don’t you EVER let anyone call you ‘their girl’ do you hear me? You’re more than that.” She was determined that I be strong and self sufficient, that I could support myself financially and emotionally.

She was also a very bitter woman with a hard exterior. She was never able to forgive my grandfather nor accept that he changed and matured into a wonderful man. She hated my father and was forever looking for proof that he was the monster she imagined (and he isn’t). She felt that way about most men, my uncle and ex-husband being the only exceptions, but it resulted in a familial rift that lasted for years. I was the only one who was allowed to cross that battle line, the only one she would entertain, much less speak to.  She had virtually nothing to do with either of my sisters. Her tongue was sharp and her words poisonous.

In the end, she gave up on life. I want to cling to the good memories I have of her. I want to pull those out and polish them up and embrace all the wonderful things she taught me. But the truth is there’s nothing to embrace. All my memories are hazy with pain and regret. She fully embraced me only when I chose to mostly estrange myself from my family. And while I am grateful for her sanctuary and support at that time, she only loved and accepted me on her conditions. Misery loves company and we were both miserable.

She died in September of 2003. And she died mad at me. She chose to ignore me. She refused to speak to me, to look at me, to acknowledge my existence. At the end, it was my turn to be on the receiving end of her poison that my family had suffered through for so many years.

She gave me a passion for reading. She taught me to question, to think for myself, to be independent. But her overall lesson was that love is conditional, that I can never be good enough and without being thin and pretty and successful I am ultimately unlovable. I wanted so much to be as pretty as she was, as elegant. I wanted to be as strong as (I thought) she was, as smart as she (absolutely) was.  I want to miss her and reminisce fondly. But in the end, I mostly only regret trying to love her.

Goodbye Todd

It’s so easy to deify someone once they’re gone, especially if your lives have moved in a weird orbit only to intersect for brief moments. You start in that shocked mode, staring at computer screen until the phrase “He no longer exists in this world” begins to echo through your head. Never mind that he hadn’t existed in YOUR world for years. The fact that he never will again looms, a void  in the part of you that his friendship once occupied, a part tucked away and forgotten until suddenly it’s not there. Fragmented stutters of memories start to take on a golden glow – a trumpet solo rings especially clear, a smile lights especially warm. The truth is that I knew very little about him, of him and I think this ache comes primarily from the knowledge that I never took the time to. I can hear his music but I can’t hear the sound of his voice or his laugh. I can clearly see him, trumpet in hand, chest rising with the breath needed to make it sing but I can’t remember his gait or mannerisms. I heard bits of his life through the years but I have no idea how all the pieces fit into the man he became.  I remember him as talented musician with a ready grin and a remarkably patient ear considering where we were in our respective lives. That’s one thing I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt…he fiercely loved his friends. And I know at one time, he loved me. I don’t mean in some romantic cheesy way.  I mean genuine, heart felt, caring. When he drove into town to visit, I KNOW it was not to see me. And yet, he sought me out. He found me, he hugged me, looked me in the eyes and said “How are you?” or “So what’s going on?” And then he would tuck me under his arm and LISTEN. If I saw him first, and bounded across the room, the reception was still open arms. And I always left him feeling completely and fully confident because I had been, for those few moments of conversation, the most important thing in the world to him.

It’s been twenty years since I last saw him. We checked in here and there usually through our mothers who still maintain a connection. The last time we communicated at all was three years ago, brief messages through Facebook. I fought tears at first. It’s stupid, I thought, to grieve for this man I didn’t know. But I don’t. I grieve for the man I should have known. I grieve for the brother that I let slip through my fingers. And more than that, I hurt for the people that did truly love him, the circle that is reconciling a hole in their daily and future life. He leaves behind a mother that is mourning a child gone too soon. He leaves behind brothers, some bound by genetics, some by history and all by love. He leaves behind relationships of which I have no knowledge. These are the people who will miss him long after the rest of the world has moved on. These are the ones who will still be paralyzed by shock of his absence long after the shock of his death has left the rest of us. And so I cry. For them and for the loss of someone I never really knew but for, however briefly, touched my life.

My oldest companion

She’s patient. She can  lie dormant for days, weeks, even months on end, waiting for the perfect storm to pounce. No. She doesn’t pounce. Never pounces. She’s much too subtle for something as crude as pouncing. She is insidious. She slips unnoticed into the center of my psyche, tweaking this outlook and twisting that thought until my emotions are dark and tangled. She is my oldest companion, this quiet voice that told my pre-school self that she wasn’t good enough to play with the other kids and convinced my kindergarten self that she would be rejected because she couldn’t tie a shoe yet. She has been a constant presence for as long as I can remember, cultivating the belief that I’m irresponsible and flaky and lazy, unworthy of love or friendship, a failure, incapable of completing anything of significance or doing anything of significance, clumsy and stupid, only shown kindness out of pity…

Lies that are slowly being exposed and uprooted, left to wither and die. But they’re tenacious little weeds.

I left work both Monday and Tuesday in tears. I cried in the  car on the way home. I might have even beat the steering wheel but by the time I was with my family, I was able to leave work behind. (Mostly. I did vent some) (And Tuesday I got to leave early so the decompression took significantly less time) Today was no better and then I realized I have dropped the ball on a fairly  large personal issue. Something I thought was covered for now wasn’t. Something I should have addressed and didn’t.  And my irresponsibility could quite possibly cost us. We won’t LOSE anything. But we might not be able to do what we wanted. What my husband wanted. My husband that goes out of his way to fill my life with extravagance and love and luxury and is now going to be punished because of my…stupidity.

I was nauseous all afternoon. And when he walked in tonight and asked an innocent question, I misheard and snapped. I yelled at the one person I wanted the most to make happy. And then I lost it and sobbed all the way through serving dinner plates. (Yet the rice STILL needed more salt. I can NOT cook rice).

It’s a perfect storm – stress and guilt – and it’s hard to reject that familiar voice with her slippery half truths, whispering my deficiencies and unworthiness until I’m sick. I know I don’t have to dismiss her alone but even prayer seems empty tonight. I’m clinging to faith that God is still there. He hasn’t changed. And He knew what he was doing when He created me, and when He put my husband in my path. I’m clinging to that.

Momentous Events

Thirty five years ago a woman gave birth to her first child – the very child that her doctors had warned her not to have. Despite those doctors’ warnings (and I imagine, to their surprise), he was completely healthy.

Approximately three years later that child was happily playing outside when he tripped, not unlike most children. Except this time he was carrying a stick. And there’s a reason parents warn against running with sharp objects. Again, he surprised doctors. Though he lost his eye, his brain was undamaged.

Fast forward to adulthood. He’s riding his motorcycle with some friends when he hits a bit of gravel and slides into a van. His friends watch in horror as a semi-truck approaches, convinced they’re watching the end of him. He emerges with bruises & a bloody nose – the semi having missed his head by mere inches.

He experienced deep hurts yet remains loving. He tasted betrayal yet is unspeakably loyal.  He will make you laugh yet he knows how to truly listen. He is open to new ideas and discussions yet firm in his beliefs. He is compassionate and responsible. He’s the best gift giver I know and grills up a mean steak. He is intuitive and self less and hilarious and honest.

I call him my miracle. His life is a miracle. That I ever learned of his existence is a miracle.  That he loves me is a miracle. That I get to be married to him…it’s the ultimate privilege.

Happy Birthday to my amazing husband. I look forward to the next 35 years.

the post without a title

A Facebook friend posted a link to an article on Single Dad Laughing called “The Disease Called Perfection”.  It’s long but it’s pretty good. You should go read it. It was rather timely for the past week that I put myself through.

I’m not the perfect wife or mother. My house is never perfectly clean; my meals never perfectly cooked (or balanced). I’m not always in a good mood. While I’m not going to go around broadcasting my imperfections, I’m also not going to fake the opposite. Most of the time I can ignore the dust in the corner until I get a moment to reign it in. I can just be happy the kids are getting fed. I am happy with myself. Most of the time. But once upon a time, not so long ago, that wasn’t the case. Once upon a time I was that woman who – on a near daily basis –  carefully considered the best way(s) to make my death look like an accident. I wasn’t smart enough, or successful enough. I wasn’t motivated enough or focused enough. I wasn’t pretty enough or organized enough. TheKid would have been better off being raised by my parents. Somedays I wouldn’t even bother with an accident. I could vividly imagine the elegant simplicity of a knife.  One fear trumped the self loathing though – that my death would NOT be ruled an accident. And I didn’t want TheKid to grow up with THAT stigma.

I’m not in that place anymore. I do not daily consider suicide. The insecurities linger though and influence my life, primarily in the area of relationships. I avoid situations & potential friendships because I’m not good enough. I look at some women and see beauty and intelligence and drive that I do not possess and leave me feeling distinctly uncomfortable. And sometimes, when I’m not careful, those comparisons settle deep within me, growing until I’m nauseous, sending tendrils up my body, closing my throat & whispering taunts I’m convinced that my husband made a mistake in marrying me or no one needs me as a friend or….whatever.

Thankfully that’s not a regular occurrence anymore.  However it does happen more often that I’ve ever admitted…this past week being a prime example. And it was brought forcibly to my full awareness. So. I’m working to improve some of the imperfections that haunt me the most…laziness and lack of self discipline primarily…but also negative thought patterns. I’m trying to embrace that I will never be as pretty or smart or organized or…whatever…as some women. I KNOW that but knowing and embracing are two different things. It’s while facing these issues head on that the  insidious voice is the worst. I mean, I guess that makes sense. The damage of years of self destructive talk and the habit of those thought patterns isn’t going to heal over night but I’m done laying in bed and imagining how much better off my husband would be if I disappeared. (Please know – he has never been anything but loving and supportive and uplifting…these issues are mine and pre-date him significantly. He’s just stuck with the aftermath.) There’s alot I want to change about myself but it’s gotta start with the mental aspect. And I handle those things best by writing.