Gratitude – Sometimes It Comes With A Price

This morning I received news that left me deeply disappointed. It was a letdown that actually brought me to tears. I spent some time feeling sorry for myself. I have had a rough past six months…and then this. I took a deep breath, re-grouped and the day continued. I know God has a plan for me and I trust in it. I need to remember that and see this as a set-forward, not a set-back.

The afternoon turned into a productive day. I drove home and decided that I would make November a month of gratitude; similar to my journey of #100happydays. As I sat in my recliner this evening and thought about all I have to be grateful for I received some very sad news. I learned that a woman from church died this morning. She had been fighting cancer for a while. I didn’t know her for long but long enough to know the world lost an amazing person this morning and heaven gained an angel. She was absolutely one of the most loving and humble people I have ever had the honor of knowing. And she had a smile that would light up any space. Whenever I saw her, she was smiling; no matter what. If you met her, you would have smiled too.

So what I thought I was grateful for today is not even close to what I am grateful for now. Tonight I am grateful for having known you Michelle. I am grateful for having known such a strong woman of strong faith; someone who lived and practiced it daily. Your example will live on forever.

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Being Last … It’s Somewhere

Today I had a great workout at my box, #978 Cross Fit. (I still can’t get used to saying that.) The last part of the workout was a 1600 meter run (1 mile for you non-metric, non-CF folks). I saw the Workout of the Day (WOD) last night and for a few seconds seriously thought about not going this morning. The thought of running a mile at the end really screwed with my head. I don’t know why I let that happen. I used to be a runner. Did my fair share of 5K’s and even did a 1/2 marathon on my 50th birthday. I enjoyed running. So why is running such a labor to my brain now? Because in my head I am not a runner anymore and running is hard. Running is hard for runners, never-mind non runners. I once heard someone say that the best part of running is finishing. I need to remember that you need to start in order to finish.

Its getting easier. I think that’s why I decided to go this morning. I am not getting faster but I am getting stronger. I am getting stronger physically and mentally. I can see my physically strength increase each time I put more weight on the bar when I exercise. Mental toughness is not as easy to see. I had my first glimpse of getting mentally tougher during the swim portion of my recent sprint triathlon. I have always been a competitive person. I was so bad that my husband and daughter stopped playing miniature golf with me because I took the fun out of it. Over the years, I have been blessed to start taking that competitiveness inward and just compete with myself. Its hard to look at yourself and realize you are not where you once were but I am not where I am going to either. That is the thought that kept me swimming in the tri.

Half-way through the swim I wanted to quit. I thought, “What the hell? This is ridiculous! I don’t belong out here and I had no business doing this”. Then a lifeguard said, “just swim to me. Swim to my board.” And I did. And then I swam to the next board and went past the next board. And then I rested. And then swam to the next board. And then my feet touched the bottom and I walked out. Along the way I could see I was the only one in the water. That wasn’t what made me want to quit. I really doubted I could do it. And then I heard encouragement and it reminded me why I was out there. I was out there for me; not for anyone else. I knew I had taken a loooong time to finish but I finished. Coming out of the water I dug deep and reminded myself that my best effort was yet to come. I think this picture of me coming out of the water says it all.

Out of water_beachI dusted off the sand, slapped on my helmet and shoes and continued. And that is what I did today. I finished the first part of the workout, put on my sneakers and said to myself, “go.” It was supposed to me a “Max Effort” which means make it through mile at a pace that would allow me to keep jogging and not have to walk.

I always come out of the gate too fast and I did again today. I did much better but at about 400 meters, I needed to walk. Urgh!!! I was sooo bummed. And then I realized that was longest this summer I had gone without walking. So I walked and started on my way again. And like most workouts, I saw my WOD mates pass me coming and going and I just kept going. Coming in last was never something I thought I could accept. And then I came in last today. Just like the day before and the day before. And I am OK with it.

Coming in last is OK because last is somewhere. It is last in a line of inspiring people who put themselves out there each day to better themselves and live healthy. It is behind people who turn around and cheer you on to your finish. And it is waaaay out in front of a long line of people who don’t try and don’t finish. Someday I won’t finish last…maybe. But I will always finish. And that toughness is better than any weight I can lift on a bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t feel that way when I was training for my 1/2

What You See … Not Always What You Get

Puffin straight on viewI look at this picture and see a proud Puffin. A confident bird facing the world straight on. It is asking, “May I help you?” Well, maybe not. Maybe it is saying, “Can you help me?” Who really knows its thoughts? That is how I feel but no one can see it. I didn’t see until recently; literally only a few hours ago. I had a busy weekend and felt out of place everywhere I went. It was only when I was sitting in my recliner that I realized I wasn’t comfortable anywhere.

I usually only write when circumstances are going well but not tonight. I have been feeling funny lately; out of place, even in my own skin. I was looking through pictures to print late last night and was drawn to this photograph. Maybe it is because I look at this Puffin and see me. A proud person putting her best face forward when she is actually crumbling on the inside.

My desire to retreat from everything is getting stronger. I can feel all the excuses bubbling up of why I can’t participate in the activities I enjoy: exercise, church, life group and scrapbooking. I am tired and can’t bare the thought of having a discussion with someone; I don’t even want talk with myself. That is why I making myself write this. After decades of struggling, I have finally recognized the symptoms without someone else needing to tell me what is wrong. I am depressed. I haven’t felt this way in so long it is a foreign to me.

You would think if I recognize it I could just snap out of it … but its just that that easy. I feel stuck and on one level am OK with it but know that is not OK. I hate just existing and going through the motions. In the past I have said that I never knew how bad I felt until I started to feel better. This time, I know I feel bad because part of me really wants to feel better; happier, have more energy and enjoy living. It is as thought I can see myself as I used to be and want to get back there but there is no map or GPS. It is a path I have to find myself. First step, battle that monster in the morning that tells me to stay in bed and not go to exercise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Difference Each Day Makes

 

I have been reading my past blog entries from 2014 leading up to the anniversary of my Mom’s death. Writing for those 30 days leading up to the anniversary helped so much. It was cathartic. That is why I am writing again.

Three weeks ago I jumped off a cliff and went to CrossFit. I was so scared but in classic Linda fashion, I jumped in and then yelled as I was falling. The landing was fine though; in fact it was like a trampoline. I bounced back and went the next day and the day after that. I took the fourth day off and went back again. I am now on week three (or four, it doesn’t matter). What does matter is that I feel more alive than I have in a very long time.

I find myself looking up the WOD (CrossFit lingo for Workout of the Day) the night before and then googling any moves I haven’t done before in preparation for the next day. I look forward to working out. I don’t find myself making excuses in advance on why I won’t be able to get there. In fact, I build in contingencies so if I can’t make the 5:30am session I have another option. My gym bag is now a regular fixture in my car. (No worries, the clothes are clean).

I can feel myself getting stronger day by day. And the best part is I don’t just mean physically. I feel stronger mentally as well. I truly believe you need to rise each day and choose joy. And not just choose it, but protect it; not let anyone steal your daily joy. I defend it like a mother lion defends her cub. Each day is a new day with new joys, new ups and downs. I can proudly say, in this moment, that depression is something I had. It is not something I have. I know all to well how quickly depression can sneak up and take you by surprise. And that is why choosing joy and exercising are so important. Today was great and who know what tomorrow may bring. What a difference each day makes.

Happy Birthday To Me

I don’t know if I have ever wished myself a happy birthday before. Today was that kind of day. I awoke to Mark wishing a happy birthday (and he had the day off). Then I went down stairs, packed my lunch and found the most beautiful card he has ever given me. It brought happy tears to my eyes. I started on my way to work and had to put my sunglasses on; it was sunny out. I think all the sunlight was supercharging my vitamin D. It seems everything was extra sweet. And the best part of all of it was I never spent one second thinking it had to be too good to be true.

When Emily was young the woman that watched her used to always say, “You make your own day.” Often, I can remember feeling really annoyed and irritated when she said it. Looking back it was because she was right and I was miserable.

Today I did it. I made my own day. I don’t think there was much that could have wrecked havoc. I wouldn’t have let it. And I think that is part of the secret. I need to wake up every day and choose to be happy. And if I can’t do that, I need to stop, remember today and think about why I would choose anything else. It’s OK to have a bad day but its not OK to have a bad week or month or year. That is so yesterday.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I have always been drawn to that saying.  Now I plan to put it into action.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Forty-four years ago today my life changed and it would never be the same.  I remember it like I am there now. I was eight, my sister was 10 and my brother was 14.

I woke-up to my sister telling me she had to use the bathroom.  I rolled over and told her I didn’t want to go.  My sister and I had single beds but each night she would jump into my bed.  I was not a fan of the dark and she would sleep with me so I wasn’t scared.  Every morning one of us would wake up and then wake-up the other one and walk to the bathroom together.  For some reason, I didn’t want to get up that morning so my sister went without me. The next thing I remember is my sister crawling in bed with me and telling me, “Don’t tell anyone but I think Mom is dead.”  When I think about what she said and how a 10 year old today would react I can’t believe how innocent we were.

We stayed in bed and didn’t move until my father came in and laid across the bed.  He was crying and told us that Mom had died. I remember the uncomfortable feeling of seeing my father crying and wanting to get out of the bed. I was hanging off the side just waiting for him to get up. I wasn’t sure what was happening but I knew it wasn’t good.  After what seemed like forever, my father stood up and told us that two of his friends were going to come in and take us to our neighbor’s house.  Mr. Kilham picked me up he told me not to look as we walked through the living room. I wish he had never said that. Telling an eight year old not to look at something is like giving them permission. We walked through the living room and I looked. There was a figure on our brown vinyl coach with a yellow blanket over it. He stepped outside and carried me across the front lawn to our neighbor’s house with my sister right behind. We sat in the kitchen and talked with my friend and her brothers and sister. I don’t remember where my brother was. I don’t remember seeing him for most of the day. We ate breakfast at the table. I remember putting on my friend’s blue cotton bathrobe when I first got there and how scared and upset I was when I spilled grape jelly on it.  Her mom told me not to worry but I did anyway.

A little while later we were playing at their house and we wanted to use my friend’s toot-sweet machine.  It was a machine that took tootsie rolls and molded them into things.  We didn’t have any tootsie rolls so my friend’s mother sent her brother “down town.”  He was worried he might get in trouble for not going to school but his mother re-assured him it was OK.  Before you know it we were eating candy in the morning.  I remember thinking how cool that was.

We lived in a small town where my father was a Captain on the Fire Department and my mother was active in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Everyone seemed to know everyone. I had no idea how many people would quickly descend upon our house over the next few days. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day but my sister, the family memory, told me we went shopping later that day to get my brother some clothes for the wake. I didn’t know what a wake or a funeral was either. I think about how aware children are today and how sheltered from life we were in 1970.  It wasn’t a bad thing; in some ways I think it was a blessing.

My father sat with my brother, sister and me and told us that we could go to the funeral home to see my mom before all the people got there.  I didn’t want to go that night but he told me I could go the next day if I wanted.  I remember being on the front lawn playing when a car drove down the street and stopped.  The back passenger door flung open and out came my sister and brother crying. My sister ran across the lawn and into the house.  As my father got out of the car and walked to me and I clearly remember telling him I didn’t want to go see her the next day.  He told me I didn’t have to; he understood.  My sister and I were not allowed to attend the funeral; my father felt we were too young. Instead we went to our neighbor’s Aunt and Grandfather’s house so they could watch us.  I remember feeding  the chickens.  It was fun but I couldn’t wait to get home and be with my brother and father.

I have vacillated between whether or, not not going to my mom’s wake and not being allowed to attend the funeral was a good thing. I now believe it was a blessing. I can still remember seeing my mom lying on the couch under the yellow blanket as I was carried out of the house. I am so glad I don’t remember seeing her lying in a casket. I am not sure I could have handled that as a young child. I am glad I didn’t have that vision to fixate on over the years.

My mom’s funeral was on May 30,1970, two days after she died. When we left my friend’s Aunt’s and went back home there were a lot of people there. All my cousins, Aunts and Uncles and so many adult friends of my parents.  I remember people standing around eating, drinking, laughing and crying. And I also remember my birthday celebration. My birthday was May 29, the day after my mom died.  It was celebrated on May 30, 1970 at my house after her funeral. There are only two gifts that I remember receiving that year. One was a fringed pocket book that my cousin Kenny decided to pass around and everyone put money in it. I ended up collecting $50.  The other gift I remember is a one piece, green flowered. cotton jump suit. It had no sleeves and shorts. I remember it because my father handed it to me and I opened it. I wasn’t that excited over it but I remember a lot of people started to quietly cry as I opened it.  Later on I was told that my mom had purchased it for me as a birthday present.

Remembering this day today is different than it has been in the past.  Today, 44 years since the day my mom died, I am sad but it hasn’t consumed me. I am done grieving and mourning. I have moved on to celebrating my mom’s life. I am looking forward to tomorrow, and the next day and the one after that.

 

Both Ends of the Spectrum

When I started writing again 29 days ago I started with the intension of working through the pain of my mother’s death and to “finish mourning.”  I started down a long, narrow, rocky, unknown trial and now find myself on a winding, well-groomed path.  Neither trail or path had direction signs but I found my way. I don’t have a destination and I like that.

I have walked down dead-end trails and found myself walking in a loop.  I have become frustrated to the point of crying, fought with myself not to turn back and then adjusted my compass and kept going. I have spent a lot of time with my thoughts and putting them to the keyboard, sometimes typing as my fingers dodged teardrops. It has been an unbelievable experience to sort out my thoughts and feelings.

Death is a part of life. They are on the same spectrum; just at different ends. We hope the ends will be far apart but sometimes they aren’t. What I have learned is that even though the distance between life and death was short for my mom, I need to remember there was life. Her life, joined with my dad, made new lives. I have spent so many years focusing and obsessing on her death and what I had missed. I now choose to spend the rest of my days remembering her and loving her and her legacy. She lives everyday in my love of God, my love of laughing and in her grand-daughter Emily Eleanor.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 will be the 44th anniversary of her death. I know I will be sad and that’s OK. I still remember that morning so vividly it could have been yesterday. I will remember, let my myself be sad (maybe even cry) and then finish my day. And the next day, May 29, I will celebrate my 53rd birthday. I will laugh and I will give thanks for the gifts of Emily, my mother, Mark and all the wonderful people in my life.  I will also thank God for guiding me through this painful, yet necessary experience.  I can now spend the remainder of my spectrum with love instead of fear and anger. I can enjoy my days as I know my mother would want for me.