The Trial-Athlete

th_AthleteEverydayYes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life certainly hasn’t been without adventure!  For the athlete friends out there, I’ll give a quick injury update.  Since my hamstring tear last October, I’ve slowly been moving back into running, swimming and biking.  Slow progress is still progress, but there have been a couple more setbacks along the way.   It truly has been two steps forward, one step back ever since the long string of injuries started.  So many pieces and parts of this gosh darn kinetic chain have been affected, it’s all starting to become a blur now. I was allowed to start doing some easy walking and biking in December.  I was able to start swimming with a pull buoy and add Santa Barbara Racewalk/run intervals about the middle of January.  I made gradual progress to the point that my coach was able to schedule my workouts in miles of running instead of minutes of running at the beginning of May.  Even though my longest straight run had only been 3 miles at that point, I was able to do The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which was May 10th, using run/walk intervals.  Even at turtle speed, it felt awesome!  I have to say, Santa Barbara was the hilliest 13.1 mile course this flatlander has ever done, but it was the most beautiful ever!  Add in perfect weather and the wine at the finish line, do I really need to say more?  No, but I will.  It was awesome! Cabo marinaThe Santa Barbara race was the start of our vacation, a great start!  We flew from there to Cabo San Lucas.  Did I mention the race was the hilliest ever?  The combination of hills from the race, walking the hills of Cabo into town and at least two beach walks in the sand each day, plus a few training runs around the marina…  I suppose I overdid it.  My calves were toast.  So there you have it, one step back. Cabo beach I was just getting back out on the road again last week, more so with cross training still, but my calves were recovering.  Last Tuesday I was enjoying a wonderful ride on my bike.  I’ve been happy that I was finally getting my average speed back up to where it was before the hamstring thing.  I like riding where there isn’t a lot of traffic.  The problem with that though is, there isn’t a lot of traffic.  If you run into an issue, you’re pretty much on your own.  The more desolate roads around the desert aren’t always the quality of the busier roads, either.  I was drinking from my water bottle, hit a bump, and swerved off the road into sand deep enough to bring my tire to an abrupt stop, thus throwing me into the road.  Isn’t is bruised legfunny how even in the middle of nowhere, you still look around to see if anyone saw you fall?  Yes, I did that first, before I got myself off the road.  After a few minutes catching my breath and examining my wounds, I decided I had to be tough and ride home, blood and all.  After all, isn’t that what athletes do, suck it up, ignore the pain and move on?  The problem was, my chain had come off and I wasn’t able to get it back on Josiah Racingwith my injured hand, so I had to humble myself and call my husband to come rescue me.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, no stitches required, just a very bruised, swollen hip, sprained hand and a bruised, road rash covered elbow.  Apparently, there was a benefit from the crash.  According to my son, a racing team cyclist, I now have something called “street cred”.   That’s respect among the cycling community, so I guess that makes up for the pain, right! My Doctor said it could take four weeks for the swelling to go down and the bruising to disappear.  The Physical Therapist said I can swim with the pull buoy still, aqua jog lightly for now, but NO running or even walk/run intervals until the swelling goes down.  And in my mind I’m saying, “But don’t you understand, I’m already signed up for another half in August and September?!?!”  You runners that have dealt with injuries are tracking with me, right?  You’ve been there too! And there you have it, one step back yet again! It appears that I will always have something to deal with, as most of my issues have been stirred up by problems with my spine and impinged sciatic nerves.  The doctor’s encourage me to continue, as it’s important to stay active and healthy and my activity is not going to cause my condition to get worse.  I will have pain regardless, but if I stop moving, I’ll stop moving, period and that isn’t healthy.  I do get injections and see a Physical Therapist weekly, however, as long as I can avoid medication or surgery, I will keep doing what I love. I’ve titled this post, “The Trial-Athlete”, but not because of me and my silly injuries.  I’m thinking way beyond what I’ve dealt with.  I’m not a minimizing my “adventures” here.  I’m just looking at them from a different perspective in this post. My mind is drawn to some unsung heroes in my life.  Let me just tell you a little bit about them.  I won’t name names today, so to those who know me, no reason to be nervous. lonelinessThere is the friend who has spent years, almost a lifetime dealing with her disease.  It’s very difficult to manage, as her body doesn’t want to cooperate as it should.  It’s not only challenging, it’s risky, even life threateningly dangerous at times.  Her husband died several years ago and she remains home alone most days, missing him terribly.  She doesn’t remain home alone by choice.  You see, she’s had a series of falls, eleven of them!  Each has resulted in bad breaks of her arms, legs, hips and pelvis, each requiring surgery and rehab.  It’s now very difficult for her to get around.  Yes, she has times she gets discouraged, very discouraged, yet each time I see her rally her will and her mind to stay positive and move forward, even if it’s through tears that she does it. There is the friend who found herself a single parent with more children than most of us have.   Any of you who have been single tear fallingparents can relate to the difficult challenges that this role presents to an already wounded mom or dad.  That wasn’t her plan when she married him.  Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  This wasn’t her dream for herself or her kids.  And if that isn’t enough, imagine if it were you as the parent and one of your children were handicapped and now a teenager that you have to do everything for.  This has been the case for 15 years already and will be the case for a lifetime.  Somehow she does it.  She’s not just trying to survive.  She is putting herself through school at the same time.  She does it well!  Even if it’s through tears. There is the friend whose career dreams were brought abruptly to a halt by a serious accident before she could even finish college.  Severe spinal injuries have caused her a lifetime of pain and suffering as a result.  Years after the first accident, a doctor was finally able to do a surgery that enabled her to walk again.  Her dreams had a chance to be reawakened, as it appeared she had been gifted a moment of hope that life could return to normal again.  Within weeks, those dreams were violently torn from her grasp when she became the victim in another serious accident.  Not only would she not be able to walk normally, she returned to a life of constant pain with many other complications to numerous and graphic to describe here.  While she has every reason to be angry and bitter, she is one of the sweetest, kindest, and most loving people I’ve had the privilege to share life with.  She just wants to love people, even in pain, even through tears. There are others who have had their lives drastically and tragically changed in an instant.  The friend who lost her son…  I just can’t imagine how devastating that would be.  The friends who have lost spouses… parents… other loved ones…  Those are life altering events.  You live with the aftermath for the rest of your breathing days. That’s the type of unsung hero I’m talking about.  Talk about an ability to endure!  When the accidents and surgeries are past, when the diagnosis has been given and the torturous treatments are ongoing, when there is never going to be any relief for the pain, when the funeral is over, the obituary archived and everyone has gone home, these heroes are left to live with their lifelong “new normal”. Runners work hard to train for the Marathon, really hard.  Triathletes work hard to train for the triathlon or the Iron Man, really hard!  They spend agonizing hours alone out there on the road or in the water, keeping those tired, heavy arms and legs moving forward.  Training is often in the dark, before or after work or through inclement weather that we don’t even like to leave home to drive our cars in.  Yes, they certainly have endured when they cross that finish line and they deserve that medal!  They’ve built up an pats run finish lineincredible ability to endure and that strength and endurance carries over into other areas of life.  It leaves them with a sense of achievement.  They’ve accomplished something beyond what they thought months before they would never be able to do.  It’s an incredible feeling!  And yes, you get addicted to it, so most of us do it to ourselves over and over again.  The thing is, we do it by choice.   Our race has a date and a finish line. The unsung heroes I’m talking about never would have chosen the circumstances that brought their pain.  Yet they do it day after day, month after month and year after year and they survive.  There aren’t crowds cheering for them along the course or people handing them water and nourishment every few miles.  Some are lucky enough to have a good network of support around them, but unfortunately, most do not.  Their race involves more than just a few hours of their time.  There is no medal to display in their home.  There is no finish line for them, at least not as long as they are breathing the air of this world. grace quoteTalk about an ability to endure!  These unsung heroes have it!  That’s a special gift.  I call it a gift of grace.  That’s how they survive.  They live day by day, one day at a time.  They live on the grace or the strength they have for that day.  Most days they don’t “feel” strong.  They might not even want to be strong anymore, yet they make it, one more breath, one more step, one more day.  And while it may appear that they do it alone most of the time, the friends I’m talking about, know they aren’t alone.  They know where their help comes from.  Their help comes from the maker of heaven and the creator of this world.  Yes, they have unanswered questions as to why, yet they trust their God for the strength to make it.  They trust in a God that enabled them to overcome and push through tragedy, disease, painful suffering and heartache.  Anger and bitterness have been exchanged for kindness, forgiveness and love.  They are true trial-athletes! Many are inspired by the athletes who train and compete in a race for finish lines and medals.  Look around at the forgotten, shoulder for cryingunsung heroes you share life with.   They are still running their race, often injured and their finish line is still years down the road.  Their legs and arms get tired.  It’s hard and it hurts.  They shed tears out on the course.  Keep cheering for them.  Step up and pass them a cup of cold water or nourishment from time to time, whether it be just a smile, a card, a text or phone call, a hug…  Let them know they are heroes in your eyes and that you’re sticking with them for the long haul!  By doing so, you will have entered yourself in a race.  It’s a race with no finish line and no medal on this earth, but the rewards are far better!  You will become that special gift in their lives and you too, will build an ability to endure.  Just watch out though.  You might become addicted!  I hope so!

Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (TBL)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17 (NIV)

Following My Dreams

Follow Your DreamsWow!  Could it just be so easy?  To wake up each day and have the freedom to let the day carry you, to follow your whims based on how you feel each day.  To wake up and be “there” already, that place you imagine will keep you happy for the rest of your life, no difficulties, hardships, no struggles to push through.  It’s just there, given to you right up front, waiting for your toes to break the surface of that refreshing water.  Oh, to be able to lounge on that raft, floating through the white puffy clouds into time and space in perfect peace for the rest of your time on earth.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  Wouldn’t the world be a happier place if we could all just do that?  Follow your dreams…

Honestly, I’ve been trying to follow my dreams for more than 50 years now, but it just hasn’t been that easy for me.  How unfair is that?  Why is it that some people just seem to fall into their dream and others have to work so hard to get there?

Statistically speaking, the number of people who get to fall into their dreams early in life can be counted on fingers compared to the vast billions that have to work long and hard toward them.

There is something to be said about the struggle to get there.  The struggle isn’t a separate entity from the dream.  It’s a divine part butterfly.coccoonof the dream.   Remember the caterpillar, the cocoon and the butterfly?

There’s something to be said about the rocky road, the crooked path, the twists, the hairpin turns, the unplanned detours, the flat tires.  They aren’t just part of the road you travel to reach your destination.  The journey and the destination are one.  You can’t have one without the other.

crooked pathThere’s something to be said for the difficult people placed along the path in your dream.  Human nature would dictate that you circle around and avoid such people.  Don’t waste your time on them, you don’t need the drama.  Who do you think makes you a better person?  They do!  Iron sharpens iron, so go ahead and rub shoulders with the cold hard ones.

An ancient history book says that trouble and suffering are good for us.  They lead us to have the strength to endure and persevere.  Endurance develops our character.  Character gives us hope.  Good character helps us reach and keep that which we hope for.  It’s a progression.  It’s the way life works.  You can’t have one without the other.   (Ancient history book, aka The Bible, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:3-4)

Follow Your Dreams.2

That said, in actuality I’m already “there”.  I’ve been “there” all along, even when it didn’t appear so, feel so and I didn’t think so.   Whether it be good times or bad on this journey, all the circumstances and events have been working together to make me new and better day by day.   I’m living the dream and choosing to enjoy the ride.

Embrace Your Joy!

photo 4Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times of the year and it’s obvious when you look around my home.  I’ve just spent the last two weeks decorating, so yes, it’s very evident that I love Christmas!  The holidays bring me great joy!

Joy is an appropriate topic for today’s post because after all, tis the season!  My post is inspired by a few things.  One of those inspirations is Nelson Mandela.  People who spread love and good will in our world are a great source of inspiration and much can be learned from the legacy that this man left behind.  While the world mourns his passing, those closest to him are dealing with intense grief at the moment.  Joy is the farthest thing from their minds.

As a matter of fact, this season is one that many can’t find joy in.  Accidents still happen.  People lose their lives.  Disease is still diagnosed.  Employees lose their jobs.  Bills still come in the mailbox.  Families break apart.  Depression and suicides increase.  Life doesn’t suddenly change to cookies, glitter and snow angels when Macy’s Santa arrives in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Transforming my home and singing carols is more apt to cause people in these situations to be even more depressed.

So, how can I write about joy when there is so much pain and disorder around me?  You knew I was going to answer that, didn’t photo 5you.  My own life hasn’t been all happy and joyful, nor have all of my Christmas seasons been filled with gifts and shiny things.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that.  I’ve experienced Christmas with accidents, loss, illness, no money, bills, break ups and brokenness, so I understand how difficult this time of year can be.  No, I wasn’t happy with my circumstances during those times, but I was able to be grateful for what I did have and look for the bright side of whatever the situation was.  I’ve always found someone or something that inspires me to find joy.

Another source for my inspiration today is a member of the running team that my husband and I belong to.  I’ve photo 5 (2)never met her in person, but I’ve seen enough of her posts on our team website and Facebook, that I feel like I know her and for that, I am grateful.  Honestly, I’m grateful for all of our team as they all are wonderful people who encourage and support each other in all of the highs and lows that come with injuries, recoveries, victories and defeats.  We all need people like this in our lives.  Today, while I am not diminishing the rest of our team in anyway, I want to highlight one.  And here I go naming names again and this time I actually have permission.  My inspiration today is Nancy.

photo 1 (2)Each day, Nancy posts a little personal story and how she was able to find joy in her day, no matter if it was a good day or a bad day.  I’ve come to look forward to reading her, “Go embrace your joy” messages.  I want to share what she posted on facebook last week.  I’ll just copy and paste exactly what she posted, as I can’t say it any better.  Here you go:

“Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something.” ~Ralph Marston

“A few days ago I shared with you all that after having fallen into a funk in my life I sought the guidance of a therapist–a person who helped me develop the tools to carry me through the obstacles–to change my perspective of this incredible and many times challenging journey we call life. 

There are many who perceive anyone seeking help as being weak or unable to cope. Sadly seeking help for a photo 4 (2)broken bone, a headache, blurry vision, even a toothache has never been questioned by my friends, but the minute they heard that I was in therapy, some friends became quite uncomfortable–giving me a side-way glance or total silence as if my problems were contagious–as if may I have a screw loose or that I am nuts. The truth– I believe the judgment from others is one biggest reasons people do not seek intervention–they don’t want people to think they can’t figure out life on their own. But sadly this perception is so unfair.

What I have learned over the years is, if I already knew everything I could about life, than there is nothing more I could learn. There would be little or no reason for me to change, to evolve to transform my life. Unfortunately, unlike your car, we aren’t born with an owner’s manual to guide us through the trials–what to do when our own internal check engine light comes on. We learn to do what we have to do just to survive–that is what we are wired to do. 

With each passing year I worry less about what others think of me, something that I spent way too much time and energy doing in my past, electing to focus more on what I think of myself and the nurturing friendships that bring me joy. Am I a good person? Am I a compassionate person? Am I kind? Loving? Giving? Do I bring joy to others?

The truth is–not everyone will like me–my goal in life is not to give up who I am to be loved by others, to be liked by others–as long as I am kind and respectful, you get me in all my whacky doodle ways. I love to have fun–I find being happy and joyful takes far less work than being miserable and angry. And as I have come to believe there is joy to found every day–sometimes you have to look far and wide for it and other times it’s right before your eyes. 

HAPPY SATURDAY FRIENDS–GO EMBRACE YOUR JOY!!!!”

Nancy started writing her posts about joy when her therapist gave her a homework assignment to find at least one thing that bringsphoto 2 (2) her joy every day, even on the dark days.  She said that some days, it was just finding a penny on her run, or seeing a rainbow after a storm, or a smile from a stranger.  She wrote this about finding joy in another one of her posts.

“Finding joy is a choice– it’s about rewiring our brain to move from negativity that can became such a part of our lives, to finding joy in the simplest of things. Certainly I would love to take full credit for my epiphany, but life in all its ups and downs is meant to be shared. More times than not, the joy does not lie in others, but is buried deep within our own hearts–we just have to open our eyes, hearts and minds to this amazing gift.”

This blog is named what it is for a reason.  It’s my own quest to become more of a real person, not one who puts on the socially accepted mask, flashes a fake smile and pretends my life is like living in a rose garden every day.  While I do like shiny things and I’d like to make you think that if it were even possible that I would ever pass gas, I would emit tiny puffs of glitter, we all know that’s not really how it is.  I want to share in the real life journey we are all on, because we all need support and encouragement.  We all need the encouragement of people around us during the difficult times, like my running team does for me.

photo 3 (2)Nancy is being real.  She’s sharing what is uncomfortable, but what she is really doing is encouraging others to be better people.  Because she chooses to be authentic, I’m encouraged to listen.  Her words speak to my heart, therefore, I’m encouraged to grow and I too, can find joy.  Maybe she’s not doing it on the scale that Nelson Mandela did, but she’s doing her part to spread love and good will in our world.

The past several days, we’ve been privileged to hear more about Nelson Mandela’s life and what he stood for.  We’ve also heard many inspiring words of wisdom that were uttered through his lips.  They were really an overflow of his heart.  This particular quote got my attention.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.

If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela 

photo 1Nelson Mandela was authentic, the real deal.  He spoke in a language that could be understood by all, because he spoke to something that is buried deep in the hearts of all.  It’s love and goodwill that speaks to us.  That’s the language of the heart.  So in this world where all that glitters isn’t gold, where it’s hard to find the true meaning of the season in the frenzy of activity and plastic trees, I’m hoping more of us will open our eyes, hearts and minds to look deep inside ourselves and others for those real gifts that are real and authentic.  Spread some of that love and goodwill around.  Go embrace your joy!

Thanks Nancy!

The “Doright” Muscle – Work it!

bike at sunriseThis morning was beautiful here in AZ!  We had a brief, very brief, reprieve from our normally hot summer temperatures.  Our lows were in the 70’s this morning!  Normal lows this time of the year are upper 80’s to low 90’s so, yes, this was NICE!  I had a bike ride on my workout schedule today and the cooler temperature just added to my enjoyment!

I love my rides, almost as much as I do my running.  I don’t wear any headphones to listen to music on my rides.  It’s just safer that way.  I find that without music blaring in my ears, I’m much more focused on my thoughts.  Of course, family members and friends are always at the forefront of my thoughts and today was no different.

Another thing on my mind this morning was my workout schedule and how important it was to make sure I get my strength training done.  It’s not the focus of my workouts, but it is necessary for me to maintain the thing that is my focus, which is running.  Without the PHX Halfstrength training, all the supporting muscles won’t be able to handle the load that I put on the muscles used to run.  You know, how the leg bones connected to the hip bone.  I can have a strong leg, but the hip has to be able to support it.  If the supporting muscles aren’t strong, I run the risk of injury, which means no run at all.  Being on the injury list is extremely frustrating for a runner.  I speak from a place of a lot of experience on the subject of injury, so, no matter how busy the schedule, the strength training must be done.  It’s the right thing to do.

“What’s the point?” you ask.  Those two strings of my thoughts this morning; family, friends and muscles are closely tied.   You see, I know people who struggle with things and some of them struggle with their own will and doing what’s right.  Of course, we all have our struggles and we’ve all struggled with doing the right thing, but I see a relationship between them and muscles here.

When I started running, just over two years ago, I was over what the ideal weight should be for my build.  Like everyone else, I had tried all kinds of diets, cleanses, pills and exercise plans, for years actually.  I would have seasons of success, but before long, the weight would be back and whatever muscle I had gained, would disappear.  When I started running, I wasn’t doing it to lose weight or get healthy.  My only motivation was to be able to run so I could spend more time with my husband, who had started running.  Yes, I did lose weight and yes, I did get much healthier and I did love the result!

The benefits that came from running were great motivators to help me keep up the good work, but my focus wasn’t on fewer calories, burning fat or building muscle.  Running made me want to eat healthier meals, so my muscles could have the proper fuel they needed to help me continue to do what I wanted to do.  I wanted to run, so I took the steps needed to help me do it.  Eating healthier was the next right thing for me to do.  I started reading about running to gain knowledge.  That was the next right thing.  I got a coach to give me direction and help me improve, another right thing.  A workout plan came with having a coach, thus, I had a workout schedule.  Skipping a scheduled workout on days when I didn’t feel like running wasn’t an option, even though there were days I had lots of good reasons to not run.  I had a coach to answer to, so I ran.  I had to exercise my mind and emotions, stretch beyond my perceived ability and develop a new mental toughness.  My focus was on running, the thing I wanted to do.  All the resulting benefits of doing the next right thing, were just icing on the cake.  Oh, and running lets me have my cake and eat it too!

Let’s jump back to the family and friends who struggle with doing the right thing.  What do you think about shifting the focus here, much like my focus shifted from losing weight to just doing what I wanted to do, which was run?  If the focus were on doing what we really want to do and we do the next right thing in whatever the given situation, instead of focusing on the thing that we don’t want to be a part of our life, it seems that the results would just fall into place as part of a natural progression.  If we focus our time and energy on the goal we want to achieve, instead of the mess we may be surrounded by, we are looking ahead to a better tomorrow, a better future.   Keeping our focus on the mess or the thing that’s become a monster with the power to destroy our lives, is like spinning our wheels in the mud.  We waste a lot of fuel trying to move forward and we might move a little, but we sink right back in.  We get nowhere and we stay stuck in our rut.

1-4-man_flexing_muscles_21ed3It’s going to take some strength training to get us where we want to be.  I like to keep things simple, so my suggestion sounds really simple, but it’s not so easy to do.  May I suggest that the focus be on exercising the “doright” muscle?  That’s pronounced “do right”, and the meaning is simple.  It just means that the focus be on doing the next right thing.  You focus on the here and now.  Even if you find yourself in a very dark place and you can’t see any way out, there is almost always one right thing that you do know to do, so do that.  Stop looking at the darkness or the impossibility of the situation.  As you do it, you strengthened the “doright” muscle.  Often doing the first right thing will help us see what the next right thing should be, so how about another rep.  Do it!  Maybe that’s all the strength you have for today, but tomorrow is a new day.  Plan to wake up and only look at the next right thing to do and do it.

All those little “doright” reps, are just small individual movements, but when you keep doing them, you achieve something much bigger Donkey_1_arp_750pxand you get to the place you wanted to go.  It reminds me of the story of the donkey who fell into a deep hole.  The farmer couldn’t get him out, so he decided to bury him.  As the farmer shoveled dirt into the hole on top of the donkey, the donkey shook it off.  He made a little movement, a small step on top of the dirt that was supposed to bury him.  After many repetitions of those small steps, the donkey found himself in a new place, outside of his hole.

Over time, it’s going to get easier and easier to work the “doright” and before you know it, that muscle will become more toned and defined.  People will start to notice the change and compliment you on it.  Before you know it, you will have moved forward.  You’ll be in that new place now and find it’s not so dark anymore.   You’re stronger than that monster from your past and he’s no longer a threat.  You’ve become an athlete!  And what’s an athlete do?

Give me 100 “do rights”!  Now let me see you flex!      woman flexing

My Open Letter to a Friend…

tearDear Jane,    (Name has been changed.)

I really don’t know where to begin.   You’ve been on my mind a lot lately, as I do indeed understand that your circumstances are overwhelming.   In just a short span of years, you’ve lost your parents, your husband and pets that were like your children to you.  If dealing with these losses weren’t enough, you have a daily struggle with the disease that has been the cause of way too many paramedic visits to your address.  Add to that, the loss of balance that has resulted in several falls, causing multiple breaks and surgeries to repair your broken bones.  I know what follows surgeries; long recoveries, physical therapy, many follow up appointments and bills.  If all those things aren’t overwhelming enough, add the fact that you do all of this alone now.

You’ve felt abandoned by the little bit of family that remain.  Your days and nights are spent alone in your recliner.  Your wheel chair stays at your side for the short trips to the kitchen and bathroom because you’re still recovering from a broken bone.  Yes, you have your one remaining pet, but for the most part, your little house is quiet.  Voices that once filled your walls are now gone.  One voice remains though, that won’t stay silent.  It’s a taunting voice that brings torment.  It plays like a tape on constant rewind.  It tells you over and over again, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I don’t want to do this anymore” or “I have no reason to keep on living”.  What’s scary to me is that you’ve listened and started to believe that voice.

I remember the days when you were very different.  Your life was full of activity, full of family and friends.  You had many people surrounding you with love and you loved them back with your kindness, encouraging words and generous gifts.  You loved giving gifts to people around you, but your greatest gift was your compassion and your laugh.  I loved hearing you laugh.  Yes, you still had to deal with that childhood disease, but that didn’t stop you from opportunities to enjoy time with family and friends, opportunities to live.

But yes, you are different now.  Circumstances have caused rooms that were once filled with light to become dim and even dark.  I stillgrief hear the laugh at times, but it’s not the same.  The laugh begins to emerge for a moment, but it ends abruptly as if it’s stopped by an invisible wall.  Each time the laughter ends, the invisible wall is quickly revealed.  It’s a memory, memories of what’s been lost.  So much has been lost…

In place of joy, there is sadness, anger and bitterness.  You’ve built yourself a little refuge, surrounded yourself with this invisible wall, each brick being a memory of someone or something that has hurt you.  Somehow you feel safe in there, alone.  So you keep building, but the reality is that you’re cutting yourself off more and more from family and friends.  The wall isn’t invisible anymore, either.  You’re isolating yourself, one brick at a time.  Your wall may keep others from seeing you, Jane, but I can see.  I still see you in there.

You used to like pretty colors, but these bricks don’t make for a pretty room.  Unfairness, injustice, sadness, anger, death, disease, backstabbing, lies, betrayal; yes these are the bricks that life and circumstances have given you.  These are the bricks you were given, so you used them to build your refuge.   I’m no interior decorator, but this is not the room that I would picture you happy in.

No one would dispute the fact that life has been unfair to you.  Anyone would readily affirm that you have good reason to be depressed and angry with your circumstances.  You have indeed been repeatedly dealt some knockdown, drag out blows.  Not just once or twice have you been hit, but over and over again.  Of course, you would seek refuge from the onslaught.  Who wouldn’t?  Anyone would seek a safe place.   So bruised, bleeding and eyes swollen shut, you did what you could and stacked your bricks, one on top of another.

bob wire wallYour refuge is not as it appears to you, though.  The reality is you’ve built yourself a prison with these bricks.  You’ve let me and a few others peek over those walls, but I’m afraid for you, Jane.  I’m afraid that if you keep using these bricks and build your wall any higher, I won’t be able to reach you anymore.  No one else will be able to either.  Your prison will grow totally dark, completely quiet, and you will be intolerably alone.

Yes, life handed you these bricks.  They were the closest ones to you, the easy ones to grasp.  The thing is, just beyond those bricks were some other bricks, bricks that were much prettier colors.  I know they seemed too hard to reach, but they were there for you to choose.  Yes, they took more effort to get to; I mean a lot more effort.  You would have to use what little strength you had left to crawl over the ugly ones to reach them.  They do have rough edges and sharp corners that could and probably would hurt you more.  It’s hard to see with eyes that are almost swollen shut, but just over those bricks are the pretty ones…

Life is full of choices, opportunities.  We may not get to choose our circumstances, but we get to choose how we respond to them.  I’m not just saying this lightly.  I know it’s really difficult to choose sometimes.  The constant battle of the voices in our ears is truly like we’re in the middle of the argument between the images of good and evil on our shoulders.  And then there is the battle of the will and emotions, fierce warriors they are!

I’ve seen you in your warrior mode before, though.  Living with disease all of these years has given you a strength that many lack.  That in itself has made you a strong warrior.  But I’ve seen you made stronger by other things, too.  You’ve used your determination and strong will to win, many times over.  You may not think you have what you need to make it through all of this, but I know you do.

I miss my old friend.  I miss the warmth and joy that was once there.  I miss her smile, her humor, her laugh, her love of people.  I’m asking for her to break free from her prison.  Jane, come out from behind that wall, please…

I know it’s not going to be easy, but I know even more that you can do it, Jane.  The first steps are going to be the hardest of all and only you can take them, because right now, we can’t reach you.

First of all, stop building with those ugly bricks.  Stop rehearsing all the negative memories over and over in your mind.  You may not choose what thoughts come to your mind, but you do choose the thoughts that get to stay.  When the memories of betrayal, lies, and all those ugly bricks come, kick them away.  They have no place around you.  Lift up your head and look at the light.  Instead of using your inner strength to build a false fortress, use it to crawl over that prison wall.

That’s what we have to do when we’re down.  We have to get up, even if we can barely crawl, we have to choose and make ourselves doLet go on hand it.  The farther you crawl, the closer you get to the beauty that once surrounded you.  Keep your eyes focused on all the colors just ahead.  As you crawl forward, the bruising will fade, the bleeding will stop, the swelling will go down and your eyes will see clearly again.  You will come to a place where you will be able to reach out your hand for help and allow others to touch you once again.  Yes, there is risk involved with that.  You could and probably will experience some hurt along the way.  But it’s better to hurt with friends who can help you heal, then to slowly bleed to death inside a lonely prison.  With each effort, no matter how strained, weakness will be replaced by strength.  Darkness will become light.  Hope will take the place of despair.  Bitterness will be replaced by forgiveness, anger replaced by peace and sadness replaced by joy.  Love will once again rule your heart and fill your life.

woodsYour life isn’t over, Jane.  There is a chance for a new beginning, starting today.   There is hope for your future!   Say yes, Jane.  I miss you.  Many of us miss you.  Choose life.  Please, choose life.

You know I love you!  Your friend, Bobbi

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

If  you find yourself in a place of despair, hopelessness and helplessness or have thoughts of suicide, please use the courage you have to seek help and wise counsel.  Here are some numbers to call:

Crisislink – 1 703-527-4077 / 1-800-237-8255

National Suicide Prevention Line – 1-800-784-2433 / 1-800-SUICIDE

http://www.crisislink.org

When “Little” Becomes “Limitless”…

limitlessHere’s my personal pick for my tweet of the week:

“Typing the word “little” on my phone & auto correct changed it to “limitless”.
When little becomes limitless, that’s ok! Thanks autocorrect!”

Two words, “little” and “limitless” have become my theme this week.  How auto correct would ever change the word little to limitless is beyond me.  But when “little” becomes “limitless”, that’s more than ok.  It’s incredibly awesome!  I’ve thought about these words and how they apply to my life.  After last week’s blog post, Digging Deeper, Whatever It Takes, I’ve done some hard thinking about the things that I’ve felt were limiting to me.  I’ve come to realize that while my dreams may be big, my own thinking is still small.  My own “little” is keeping me from my “limitless”.

It was last Monday when I was typing the word “little” on my phone.  I was texting a few friends, asking for a “little” prayer.  I had started experiencing the familiar symptoms that have landed me in the hospital four times in the past, symptoms that have been the reason for two of my surgeries.  I’ve talked about this before in a post, I’m Not Average.”  Monday, I was preparing to go the hospital.  I really thought that by that night, I would be admitted.  I know how this goes.  I followed the doctors’ instructions to try and prevent another episode, which haven’t been successful previously.  I made it through that day with no hospital admission.  I’m happy to say that my symptoms have subsided a little more each day since, and today I feel back to normal!

I asked some friends for a “little” prayer last week, too.  I told you about the issue with bulging disks in my neck.  That’s been more than a little painful!  I’m happy to say that the pain has gotten better each day since!  It’s not completely gone, but I’ve been able to stop taking all the pain medication I was on.  And for those who know the story already, there is a good chance I can start running again next week!

As a child, my parents took me to church and taught me to believe in God.  Yes, they taught me, but I’m the one who had to learn what it meant to believe in a god.  Like every other person out there, I had to do my own searching and formulate my own opinion about who God was and what place he was going to have in my life.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts, I think you would agree that my life has been quite an adventure.  I would describe it as being a “better than a soap opera” kind of life.  These experiences have given me much opportunity for life lessons.  I’ve had lots of opportunity to let experiences make me bitter or better.  I chose to let them make me better and in the process, I did indeed form my own opinion of who God was and what place he was going to have in my life.

I think back on the Bible stories I heard as a child.  There were a couple times recorded in the Bible, when Jesus, God’s son, found loaves and fisheshimself in a remote location with large crowds gathered around to hear him speak.  They became hungry and there were no grocery stores nearby, so Jesus took the little that he had, like a few loaves of bread or a couple fish.  When he put his hand of blessing on it, the little became limitless!  He not only fed the thousands that were gathered.  They even had leftovers!

There was a widow that’s talked about in the Old Testament.  She was in debt up to her eyeballs and her two sons that were about to be made slaves to pay for her debt.  She asked a prophet if he could help her.  He asked her what she had.  The widow told the prophet that she had nothing except a “little” jar of oil.  The prophet asked her to do something quite odd, but amazingly, she listened to him and did it.  He told her to gather up all the empty jars that she could find, so she gathered every empty jar she had and even got all the neighbor’s jars.  Next she was to go inside her house and start pouring the small amount of oil from her little jar, into the big empty jars.  Can you imagine all the thoughts going through her mind about how crazy this was, as she did it?  I’m sure she expected it to take about two seconds for the oil in her little jar to run empty, but it didn’t!  She just kept pouring her little into her emptiness and every single jar was completely filled.  The oil didn’t stop flowing until there was nothing left to pour into.  Her little became limitless!  Her sons were saved from slavery and her debt was paid.

love limitlessThose are just a couple of the many, biblical examples of little becoming limitless.

Believe me when I tell you that in my own life, there have been many times when God made my “little” become “limitless”!  I hope you’ve caught that in my posts.  I don’t talk about God in most of my posts, but I believe that there have been many events that I consider to be “a God thing”.  Maybe they weren’t all good things, but God worked them together for good in my life.

I was inspired twice this week by video links posted by friends.  Both were of a man born with no arms or legs, Nick Vujicic.  Now this is indeed, a man who has what appears to be, very limiting factors in his life.  Yet, when you talk about someone who has overcome obstacles, he’s one of the best examples I’ve seen!  I’ve posted the links to these two video clips below.  Nick not only gets where he needs to go, which is challenging in itself, but he even swims, surfs and plays golf.  He is now a bestselling author and a motivational speaker who travels the world.  His first book was titled, “Life Without Limits”.  Nick is a perfect, real time example of “little becoming limitless”.  I look at his life and can’t help but be moved to let go of every excuse I’ve ever made!

There is one common denominator in each of these examples.  It’s the God Factor.  God was involved in the Bible stories, my own life and certainly in Nick Vujicic’s life.  It’s been quoted by several people, “The size of your God, determines the size of your goals.”  Through my own life lessons, I’ve come to believe with all my heart, that I’ve got a really, really BIG GOD!  I feel that I’ve spent much time exploring the aspects of his love, grace and mercy.  With each new obstacle I’ve bumped up against, I find His love, grace and mercy are there.  I have yet to find their limits.  But you know, I’ve stopped looking for limits.  “Little” is going to have very limited use in my vocabulary from here on out.  I’ve concluded that my God is big enough for whatever comes my way, that he is indeed, limitless!Gods treasure

The moral of this story:  If God is big enough for me and all the messes I’ve made, he can be big enough for you, too! 

Don’t look at your limitations.  Look at your limitless God.

http://t.co/z7yjTJg8

Digging Deeper, Whatever It Takes!!!

runningI got the MRI results of my Cervical Spine and now know the reason for my latest round of aches and pains.  This one happens to be a literal pain in the neck!  I have three bulging disks and two more disks that have bone pressing against the nerve root.  Doctor reviews regarding the impact of this on my running are mixed.  I’ve heard everything from, “no more running”, “try cycling instead” and “no running for 6 to 8 weeks”, to “maybe after another week you can run a little”.  So, the co-pays continue to mount and it seems I go from appointment to appointment.   It’s a daily struggle against the disappointment that would try to bring me down.

If you think you’re getting weary of hearing my about my woe’s, I think I’ve got you beat.  I would much rather be writing about exciting events and joyous occasions!  I was greatly anticipating being able to put my first full marathon experience on paper.  That was supposed to have been next weekend, but I guess that’s on hold, once again.

Until this week, I had never watched a whole episode of “The Biggest Loser”.   I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show when the loser logocontestants weigh in, but I’ve never seen all the work that was involved to achieve these dramatic and impressive weight losses.  This particular episode happened to be the start of the new season.  As contestants were chosen and placed on teams, those who were on Jillian Michael’s team, seemed to express more emotion, both positive and negative.  I soon found out why!

These poor contestants weren’t given the opportunity to “ease” into their training.  They knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but they had no clue as to how difficult it would be until they were passing out and rolling off the tread mill into a heap on the floor.  Most of them were throwing up in buckets that were readily at hand, as if the need Jillian Michaelsfor the buckets had been anticipated.   On top of the complete misery and high level of emotion that the contestants felt, there was Jillian Michaels, screaming in their faces.  And I mean screaming!

I can think back to some of the workouts my coach assigned that I thought were tough.  I only remember once when I thought I might throw up.  It was on mile 16 of my farthest run yet, just before the stress fracture in my hip.  I think the heat just got the best of me that day.  One other time I was doing a hard speed workout and as the pavement ran out on a dead end road leading into the dessert, I was afraid I might pass out.  I wondered how long it would take for someone to find me out there, but those experiences seem like nothing compared to what these show contestants were facing.

I have to say that I’m thankful for a coach who doesn’t scream in my face, telling me that I’m wasting his time!  I’m not sure that I would respond so well to that.  However, a couple phrases that Jillian said, or rather screamed on the show, did make me think.  The phrases, “How bad do you want it?” and “Dig deep”, have been rolling over in my mind all week.

Of course, I can apply these phrases to running.  I really do want to run a marathon, at least one at some point.  I’ve been working pretty hard to try to accomplish that, in spite of the string of injuries, but certainly not as hard as these contestants.

But more importantly, I’ve got bigger goals in mind than running a marathon.  More than half of my life is probably already over.  Jillian 2Those years are gone and I can’t get them back.  My biggest goal is that my life would count for something.

The problem of obesity is at epidemic proportions in our country and the producers and coaches on “The Biggest Loser” want to bring change and make a difference.  Obesity isn’t the only thing that is rampant in our society.  There are plenty of other social issues that need to be addressed.  It’s going to take many people who want to make a difference and bring change.  I think the reality is that it will take every single one of us!  And I believe that every single one of us would say that we want to make our life count for something.  But how bad do we want it?

I’m not here on this swirling planet, just to exist, please myself and have a good time.  I want to make a contribution somehow.  I’ve got ideas that I’ve thought about, but haven’t done much with.  Years ago, I put some things on paper, but that’s about as far as I went.  They aren’t things that I can achieve on my own.  On my own, I don’t have what it takes to make it happen.  It’s bigger than me.  As a result, these things are left undone, unaccomplished and myself, unfulfilled.

I can hear Jillian screaming at me now.  “What are you afraid of?”  I think my answer is much the same as the contestants on the show.  “I’m scared of failing”, “afraid of the pain of the workouts” and “not being able to eat bear claws again”.  Yes, you heard that right. A contestant seriously said she didn’t want to give up bear claws.  In case you don’t know, “bear claws” are a sweet, flakey and delicately, delicious pastry!  I’m afraid I am not quite ready to give up sweets either; however eating sweets isn’t what’s holding me back from my goal in this case.

How bad do I really want it?  Am I willing to dig deep and probably endure pain, as the contestants on the show had to?  Am I willing to do whatever it takes?  I mean really do WHATEVER it takes?  Inconvenience myself, make sacrifices, take criticism, overcome obstacles, throw up and expose my ugliness in public?  Do I REALLY want it???  Or will I just keep on existing, pleasing and taking care of myself, sitting on the couch all day eating bonbons or bear claws?

It’s true!  Change starts with a choice.  It’s got to be more than a resolution we make for the New Year.  It has to be a thought out, purposeful decision to take action if you want to bring change.  As Jillian Michaels described the exercise that one contestant was supposed to be doing, she said, “It’s as simple as hand, foot, hand, foot”.   The exercise was called the “bear crawl”.  Jillian broke it down into tiny movements, one after another.  You just have to move one hand, then one foot, then one hand and one foot.

Jillian’s instruction to do one movement at a time was simple, just like I try to live my life, one day at a time.  If I look at the whole big picture all at once, I can be overwhelmed and terrified.  Well if that’s the way I live, what am I missing?  Why haven’t I achieved my goal to make my life count for something and to make a difference in this world already?  I mean, I’ve already lived half my life.  I’ve wasted my own time!

attack dog Jillian told me what I was lacking.  She said, “I want attack dogs, pit bulls, fire breathing dragons, on my team. “  I’ve lacked the “attack dog” spirit.  I’ve been more like a tiny, playful, furry, cuddle up, lap dog.  I’ve liked my creature comforts, but I’ve lounged around long enough.  It’s time to dig deep! It’s time to do whatever it takes!  Who’s with me?

Thanks Jillian!