When Fear Runs Deep…

20140515_030355283_iOSI opened my eyes as I had already done many times throughout the night, waiting for the sound of the alarm to signal that it was finally the right time to be awake. It had been one of those nights. You know the kind I’m talking about, when your mind won’t get quiet and sleep evades you. It felt as if I had been semi-conscious for the last several hours. Nervous apprehension had replaced every last bit of excitement I felt the previous evening, as I had prepared for this morning. It was to be a big day for me! Another milestone was to be reached. Another step crossed off the list of steps I needed to take on this road to become a half Ironman finisher. My first 70.3 triathlon at the (young) age of 58 was a big deal, one I really was unsure that this body with all of its aches and pains could actually endure. Today was the day to put on that new wetsuit I had packed and go to the lake for my first open water swim. You should be hearing the theme from the movie, “Jaws”, playing in your mind right now.Jaws

Maybe it seems silly to you that swimming in a lake would be a big deal. I had splashed around in the lake as a kid. I even thought my little doggie paddle for a few yards every so often as I played, was actually considered swimming. As a matter of fact, I really thought I could swim, that is until I took my first real swim lesson two years ago. My coach at the time informed me that my doggie paddle was not “real” swimming. I learned that I actually had to put my face in the water! I found myself embarrassed as I was made to practice bobbing up and down in the water at a public pool, to blow bubbles out of my mouth and nose. I had to do it in front of “real” swimmers even! That was six weeks before my first sprint triathlon. Six weeks was not enough time for me to get this swimming thing. That first race was so hard! I was out of breath after the first 50 yards. I had to stop and rest each time I reached the end of a lane. I won’t say how long it took me to finish that little 400 yard swim, but let me tell you, I was slow!

A hamstring injury the week following that first race, kept me out of the pool for several months. That was followed by several months of swimming using the pull buoy, as I wasn’t able to kick. In spite of the injury and lack of proper training, I felt I needed to do a 2nd sprint the following year in order to keep my standing as a triathlete. I signed up for the same event I had done before. That swim was even worse than my first had been!

I really wanted to do this triathlon thing, so here’s where my current triathlon coach enters the picture. Swimming is her strong area. She’s been working with me just over a year now. Believe me when I tell you, this swimming stuff hasn’t come easily for me. I’ve worked hard and I’ve come a long way, but even recently at a master swim session, my coach was laughing over some weird movement I was doing in the pool. Somehow, she always manages to find something to correct, as a good coach should, I might add.

Fear.1I remember many of my early swim sessions with her. Every time I had to do a workout, I fought anxiety and apprehension. I remember times when I dreaded getting to the end of the lane and I knew she was going to have me do another lap, and then another and another. I was so out of breath at times, I felt lightheaded and even in a state of panic. There were a few times I even wanted to cry. Ok, maybe I did cry, but I sure couldn’t let her see that. I imagine I’ve made her wonder if I would ever make it as a swimmer. Even if that’s not true for her, it definitely is for me.

Confidence about my swimming had evaded me as much as sleep had the Strengthnight before this big day. I had volunteered to drive out to the lake that morning. A couple of my team mates were riding along. One was a seasoned open water swimmer. I didn’t know at the time, but our coach had given him strict orders to stay with us and keep us safe. Poor guy! Who would want that responsibility! The other team mate was a near neighbor, a.k.a., my “tri in the hood friend”. We had begun to do some of our training together. She was new to this open water swimming experience, as well. Even though she had been a swimmer longer, she was as nervous as I was. It’s funny to think back to one of our early swim sessions with our coach. I remember her commenting on how she would never be doing any open water swimming. Never say never, right!

 

It had been years since I had been to this particular lake. While the desert landscape was beautiful, the road is narrow as it winds up and down the sides of the mountains. The anxiety was building in my chest and my shoulders grew tighter with each hairpin turn. Of course, our conversation over how nervous we each felt only amplified the tension. I rounded a bend and had my first view of the water. The lake looked huge and the boats so small from our elevated vantage point. It’s good that I had passengers in the car that day, for had I not, I’m sure I would have turned around and high tailed it home!

When we arrived at the lake, several other tri club members were already putting on wetsuits. Trying to get a wetsuit over aged, loose skin that just moves up with the compression of the suit, well, that’s just an ugly story. Having to do that in front of others is down right, humiliating. I’m glad it took what seemed like forever to get the suits on. Anything to delay us from having to get in that water was okay by me. But alas, the moment arrived and it was time.

My “tri in the hood friend” and I had only planned on splashing around a bit to get used to the wetsuit, maybe swim along the shore a little, but certainly not go in over our heads. We were told we wouldn’t drown in a wetsuit, as it makes you more buoyant, but still, the idea of going deep was frightening.

Motivational-Quotes-40I’ll never forget the first time I put my face in the water. It was so cold, it took my breath away. It took several times of bobbing up and down before I could blow bubbles under the water and take a breath when I came up. We swam along the shore a little and stopped to stand up every 25 yards or so. There was security in knowing we could still touch the bottom. I think I was ready to call it a day after about fifteen minutes, but our seasoned team mate seemed determined to be sure we actually got in a little more of a workout. He was able to get my friend to swim out to a buoy. It wasn’t too far off shore, but it was definitely beyond my comfort zone. She was very pleased with herself over having done it and apparently she wasn’t satisfied with me not having the same experience, so now there was double the pressure for me to swim out to the buoy. Not wanting to jeopardize my “tough, old lady athlete,” status, I resigned myself to oblige their request. It was horrible! I forgot to breathe. I choked. I swam crooked and ran into my friend. Each of those things caused my heightened anxiety level to become a complete state of panic. My chest felt like it was being crushed and I couldn’t breathe. I stopped and begged for someone to unzip my wetsuit. Our seasoned team mate told me to keep it zipped. I had to get used to feeling that, as it happens to even experienced swimmers on occasion. I tread water for a minute and tried to calm myself until I could breathe. So much for the tough, old lady athlete! I did make it to the buoy once that day and as you can see, I lived to tell about it.

We had many lake visits over the summer, but there were very few that I

The mass start under Mill Ave in Tempe, AZ.

The mass start under Mill Ave in Tempe, AZ.

didn’t experience the whole gamut of emotions associated with my fear of the swim. It was particularly unnerving when I found myself panicking in the water just two weeks prior to my half Ironman event. That was an ordinary workout day, which didn’t include the hectic frenzy of bodies thrashing about, which is what takes place in a race scenario. I couldn’t imagine how incredibly terrifying it would be to experience that during the race.

One thing I have learned about fear, not that I would deny that I felt it, but the more you talk about it, the more you give it a voice, the more it grows, the more powerful it becomes. I couldn’t afford to talk about it, so I didn’t. That would only feed it.

Another thing that I had learned about fear, I had heard from a speaker one time. They shared an acronym for fear. FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. My fear was ungrounded. Sure, there was evidence. I had panicked in the water, MANY times! And it was terrifying! But it wasn’t real. The facts were, I could swim. I had listened to my coach. I had done my training. I had put in the hours, the distance, the time. And I hadn’t drown, not even “almost”, not even once!

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Packet pick up day! Some of our tri team mates with our awesome coach on the left. Less than 24 hrs. until the big event!

The week before the 70.3 Ironman event, I was amazed that I felt excited, rather than anxious, as I usually felt before a race. I mean I was really excited! Training for this had involved a lot of sweat and tears. I had gone from seriously doubting my ability to even do this, to knowing I would finish. My emotions were running high all week, so it didn’t take much to cause whatever I felt at any given moment to spill out. My coach said that was normal.  In spite of my carefully laid out plan for the morning of the event, it seemed as if everything was going wrong. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. I left the house later than was planned. It was raining. Two freeway ramps that I had planned to take to get to the venue were closed, forcing me to exit in an area I was unfamiliar with. I lost my wrist bracelet which I had to have to get into the transition area. Four different people working the race venue, had me running all over the park area to get help with the bracelet issue. When I finally got to the transition area and saw my coach standing there, I felt as if I would explode. She knew just what I needed. After she hugged me, she got in my face and with a gentle firmness, instructed me on what to do next. She was perfect! That minute or two made all the difference in the world to me. I had just enough time to get my transition area set up, stand in the bathroom line, get my wetsuit on and get in line for the swim start. My coach and team mates were there, along with my husband and one of my sons. My son read me an incredibly, awesome text which he had sent me that morning as encouragement, but I didn’t have my phone, so I hadn’t seen it. That made me teary eyed! Ok, everything made me teary eyed at that point, but his text was really special! I could feel slight undercurrents of frayed nerves, but I chose to block out any negativity and stay focused. My strategy was simple. I had borrowed it from the movie, “Finding Nemo”. Nemo and DoryAnd yes, I’m admitting that I even watched the movie that week before the race for inspiration. I was going to take Dory’s advice and “just keep swimming.”

It was time and our group was called to enter the water. We swam out to the start line and waited for the horn to sound, and we were off! The hectic frenzy of thrashing arms, legs and bodies was just as crazy as it had appeared in the triathlon videos. All of the things I had feared, happened. I choked. I couldn’t breathe. I got kicked, swam into and slapped in the face – HARD. Someone grabbed my leg at one point and it felt like they were trying to pull me under, but I just kept swimming. I stayed calm. I was amazed at how calm I felt. I kept focused on the next buoy, then the next and the next. By the time I rounded that last buoy, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, I wasn’t swimming by my own strength that day. Yes, I had trained for it, but I knew I had supernatural help. As it turned out, I wasn’t even the slowest one in our group, which amazed me even more, because I’m always the slowest one. My son and my husband said they were shocked when they saw me run past them, as they didn’t expect to see me for, at least, another ten minutes.

That’s the biggest part of my race story. The rest was just fun. Because of Ironman Runongoing knee issues, I had to ride easy on the bike, just fast enough to make the cut off time. On the run, I kept stopping to try to get what felt like rocks out of my shoe, but there were no rocks. It turned out to be a bigger issue with my foot. I had a killer headache, I think from lack of salt. I had dropped all of my salt, right up front on the bike course. I ended up walking a lot of the run portion, as a result of all of it, but I knew I would make the cut off time so I wasn’t concerned. It was hard and it was hot, but I had a blast! Crossing that finish line was a high that I’ll never forget! It stuck with me for a long time after the race, too!IronmanAZ70.3

I can’t tell you my story without sharing the most important thing that I’ve learned about fear. That is the fact that I don’t have to have it. I can choose to not fear. Real life experience has a way of teaching us things that become rooted deep into the fiber of our beings. That truth for me is that I have a big, powerful and completely, faithful God who always comes through for me. Even when life throws unfavorable things my way, as it has often, God has always, one way or another, worked things out for my good. Helping me with a little swim was easy! When fear runs deep, my faith is deeper still.

You didn't come this farWhat’s next? I’m not sure. I’m grounded from biking and running right now until my knees and foot recover. Yes, there is the thought that it would be really cool to do a full Ironman one day, but right now, it’s hard to imagine it being a possibility with this body. Of course, I’ll never say never, because we all know what happens when we do that, right!

Letting Go…

I hate to use the words, “I quit”, so today my word choice is “letting go”.  There is a difference you know.

I quitI believe that “quitting” happens when you physically, mentally or emotionally come to the end of yourself and you can no longer bare the discomfort or pain of whatever it is that’s just too much.  There is no way you can possibly live with it, under it or bare it, not one more day, hour, not one more second.  It may be a very real or a very false perception that brought you to that point.  It may be that you’ve grown tired and worn.  Regardless, you are at a place where you feel forced to utter the words, “I quit”.

On the other hand, we have “letting go”.  Letting go of something is a choice.  We let go, not because we are manipulated or coerced letting go balloonsby an individual or forced by a situation.  We’ve been able to set emotions aside and have taken a good hard look at the situation, evaluated its cost and benefits.  We reach the decision to “let go”.

I’ve done a lot of deep thinking recently about many things.  I’ve been in a season of introspection or navel gazing as some call it.  Yes, there are times when we can be too caught up in this type of activity, especially if we’re the type that takes ourselves too seriously, but there are times when navel gazing is very necessary.  This particular navel gazing baby navel gazingseason for me is because of an abuse class that I’ve been involved with.  Navel gazing can bring healing.  It can bring us to a better place, plus it’s always good to get the planks out of my own eyes rather than point out the splinters in the eyes of others.  Navel gazing can help us find and know our true self.  It helps us be authentic.  Real.

Today, in an effort to be authentic to my true self, I make the conscious choice to “let go” of #NaBloPoMo, the National Blog Posting Month challenge.  The NaBloPoMo challenge was to write a blog post every day for the entire month.  While have absolutely no regrets for any of the posts that I’ve written over the last ten days, this past weekend writing wasn’t on my mind, yet I felt forced to write something because of the challenge.  That’s not me.  That’s not how I flow.  Of course, while it’s part of our nature to imagine that the world revolves around us, I’m not so naive to think that there are people out there Letting go quotethat can hardly wait to wake up in the morning so they can read all the golden nuggets I have to post.  When I write, it is because I feel that I have something to say, something someone wants to hear, something that may help someone.  It’s not being true to me or what this blog is all about to just post something for the sake of meeting a challenge.  It’s not fair to you, either.  You deserve better.  So for that reason, I’m choosing to let go.

While I do love to write and writing is something that needs to be practiced like any other skill, for the sake of all of us, when I post it will be because I feel I have something worth saying.  So, I’m sorry #NaBloPoMo.  I have to let go.  Don’t take it personally though.  It’s not you, it’s me.

NaBloPoMo???

Doctor. patientI was sitting in the doctor’s office today.  I read the email.  I read the post explaining the email.  I read the words, “challenge” and “exercise”.  Both words caught my attention.  While I’m not one to viciously grasp hold of every challenge I’m faced with, I’ve discovered a bit of a competitive edge in me that likes a challenge.  And exercise!  If you know me, you know exercise is definitely an important part of my life.  Once again, these two words are having an influence on my day.

The email said it was “Nablopomo” Month.  It’s short for “National Blog Posting Month”.  How have I been blogging for a few years now and I’ve never heard of this before?  The challenge is to write a blog post every day for the month.  I’m not assuming that you want to read one of my posts every day for the month, but the challenge is just for me to get it out there.  This challenge is one I can choose to do.  The post explaining it said it was an “exercise” in writing.  It’s an exercise I can choose to do to help me build that writing muscle, so why not mix challenge and exercise in this arena that I love so much!

he_crosstrained_square_sticker_3_x_3I’ve been a runner for the past two and a half years.  My husband and I have a coach, which means a daily workout schedule, so yes, I’m getting my exercise.  I’ve had a long string of back to back injuries which have caused me to have to do a lot of cross training during my recovery periods.  I took up biking a year ago and have had to do a lot of pool running, but I’ve just recently started swimming, too.  Just three weeks ago, I took my husband’s challenge to put the added training in biking and swimming to good use and I completed my first Sprint Triathlon.  I think I’ll write about that tomorrow.

photo (5)My husband and I ran in the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon at the beginning of September.  I had been experiencing some hip and hamstring soreness that week before the race, but thought I would be okay to run if I kept an easy pace.  I was good until about mile ten, but the tightness I felt was bad enough that I was afraid if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to run again.  I even passed up the ten mile wine stop!  Somewhere in that next mile though, I had to start taking some walk breaks until I crossed the finish line.  I took four weeks off of running after that and concentrated on beginning swimming lessons and biking.  I was easing back into running two weeks before the Triathlon.  I thought I should be fine for that since the run was only a 5k.  My hip and hamstring was sore, but didn’t seem any worse than it had been, so I continued to ramp up the training.  After all, I didn’t have much time to be ready for our next race in November, the Big Sur Half Marathon.

Last week while swimming, something in my hip or leg snapped and shot pain across the top and down the back of it.  I was instantly frozen in the water.  As you know, not kicking and stroking while in a pool lead to sinking.  Verbalizing my discomfort while under water didn’t work out so well either!  After sucking in a huge gulp of pool water, I managed to get the good leg under me and very calmly hop to the side of the pool.  Controlling my reaction so as not to show the fact that I was gagging on lungs full of H2o and in great pain, I just stood at the end of my lane, smiling at the other swimmers.  I managed to choke out the water from my lungs while the other swimmers had their heads under the water, so no one knew I was having a problem.  I’m sure I helped them improve their workout sessions that day, as they assumed I was just standing there watching them, sizing up the competition, as athletes are so inclined to do.   I’m shaking my head at that right now.  Why are we like that?  Why am I so afraid to show anyone my weakness or flaws?  Maybe that’s a post for another day in this challenge.  Anyway, that’s how we’re back at the doctor’s office, once again.

I need to say for the benefit of my caring friends, which I do appreciate, that I have been under the care of my doctor and physical therapist through all of this.  All of my activity up to this point has been with their approval.  I haven’t been mistreating my body!  🙂

swim bike runThe doctor did his exam and ordered an MRI to see what kind of damage I’ve done now and then he said those words that I hated to hear.  No running.  No biking.  No swimming.  Nothing!  I’ve already been off of all training, everything, for a week now.  If you’re an athlete with a workout and race schedule, I know you understand.  This is torture!  This is not the challenge that I would choose to take.  This is a challenge I have to accept by default.  No exercise!  It’s so much more fun when we can choose to do something rather than be forced into it.

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” 
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

writer signThere is a choice I can make today, and not by default.  I can choose to make the most of this!  As I find myself with more time on my hands right now, why don’t I go ahead and write.  That writing muscle could use a good workout, so let’s have at it.  Since we’re going into the busy holiday season, I might not get a post in every day, but it sure won’t hurt to try, so here goes!  #NaBloPoMo

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” 
― Roger Crawford

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

When “Mr. Right”, Screws Up…

rainy dayFor those of you who look for my running posts, this isn’t one of them.  This post is on betrayal.  The only way I could tie running into this one, is if I were writing about my body betraying me.  It does do that!  I take good care of it and yet, it fails me from time to time.  That’s not the direction we’re going now, though.  Today we’re going on a journey into something darker, something that often leaves as much damage as a failed organ.  The resulting damage isn’t readily seen, but the pain can certainly be just as intense.

Who hasn’t experienced betrayal in some form?  We’ve all been lied to and blindsided by those we trust.  We’ve all been stabbed in the back by friends we thought “had our backs”.  We’ve all been more than a little disheartened when darkness that’s been hidden in someone we respected is exposed.  And I would be surprised if there is anyone out there that hasn’t had their trust totally crushed in a relationship with someone who they considered to be their soul mate, their “Mr. or Mrs. Right”.  It happens to people every day.  The person that we think is “the one” for us, the person that was supposed to love us “with all of their heart”, can get totally stupid and screw up.

It was my 25th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago.  If you’ve read any of my past posts, you probably already know that I’ve been married before, twice actually.   I have indeed, experienced betrayal.

It’s hard to forget.  It’s harder still, to forgive.  I can vouch for the fact that, so far, I’ve never forgotten.  Memories fade over time, but each new betrayal triggers all the painful emotion.  It’s surprising how an incident can make memories fresh all over again.

I remember the lies, the cover ups, and the clues that raised my suspicions.  I remember wanting to be in denial, not wanting to allow Things that can not be hiddenmy imagination to even explore the possibilities of what I was sensing.  I remember the moment that the evidence presented itself in a way that I could no longer deny.  The slow realization of what I was sensing was indeed a reality.  My betrayer was caught.  It happened more than once, actually.  More than twice.  It happened often with my first marriage.  Needless to say, that one didn’t last very long.

There was physical abuse within the marriage.  Physical abuse is a betrayal.  The hand that’s supposed to love you, gently caress your skin, instead inflicts bruising and pain.  That hurts emotionally and physically.

And then there was the time I was blindsided, totally and utterly blindsided.  I had no clue.  I wasn’t suspicious.  I had absolutely no reason to even go there in my imagination.  I was adored by him.  I was loved and loved well.  He was my soul mate, my Mr. Right.  How could he do this to me?

In all of these experiences, not one person ever came forward and confessed.  They had to be caught.

It hurts to be betrayed.  It hurts like hell!  Betrayal can turn a normal, calm and self-controlled individual into a crazy person.  Tumultuous, tormenting thoughts consume your mind.  Of course they would.  You’ve just experienced a loss, a huge loss.  It’s not a whole lot different than experiencing a death, only with betrayal, there may be no closure for a long time.

The normally confident person becomes insecure and fearful.  Self-esteem is brought into question.  “What did I do wrong?”  You begin to make unhealthy comparisons.  “How was I not good enough?” “How was the other person better?”  And the anger!  Internal rage!  What’s the quote?  “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s anger!”  Yes, the anger is very real.  You’re angry at everyone.  Angry with the offender, angry with the other party, angry with yourself, and even angry with God.

Sad-love-quotes-Trust-it-takes-yearsI remember a three month period of anger as my second marriage was coming to an end.  I worked retail and had a 30 mile commute home from work each night.  I was the one in that really slow car driving down the freeway late at night, after closing the store.  That was my alone time, away from people, away from my two children.  It was my time to think, my time to vent.  Of course there were tears, lots of tears.  I had conversations with myself.   Sometimes I would literally scream.   It was a safe place in my car on an empty freeway at night, so I could let it all out.  I was so angry.  Of course, I was angry with my betrayer, but more so at myself.  I was angry with myself for letting it all happen again, for allowing myself to be in such a vulnerable place, allowing myself to love and trust again.  I was angry at God for allowing my heart to be broken again.

There was the unfairness of it all.  It was so not fair that this was happening to me again.  Wasn’t it enough before?  Why me?

I hated that it made me feel so exposed, naked.  I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin anymore.  I didn’t want to be touched anymore.  It was like I was married to a stranger.  Who was this man that I had given my life to?

You feel betrayal physically.  It’s like your chest has been ripped open and your heart has been yanked out and crushed by the hand that said it loved you.   You’re left to bleed…  alone, helpless, vulnerable and bleeding to death…  It’s just so wrong.

As I’ve said already, betrayal takes many forms.  While the betrayal in your case may not have involved an actual physical affair, rosesomething far more valuable may have been taken from you.  Your spouse or partner turned the eyes that were supposed to be focused on you, in the direction of another.  The place where thoughts of you were supposed to dwell, allowed another to move in.  That person occupied your space.  The heart that belonged to you was offered to another.  When they held out their hand to the other person, they held out your heart and were allowing it to be crushed.  Those parts of the one you love are much more valuable than sex organs will ever be.

What do you do from here?  How do you process all of this as the person who has been betrayed?  For me, I write.  Writing helps me gather my thoughts, express my feelings, vent my emotion.  It’s much more effective and much safer than a slow, late night car ride.  I used to journal regularly.  I haven’t done that so much over the past several years, but recently started to do that again.  If you’ve never tried it before, give it a shot.  You have nothing to lose, but you have your sanity to gain.  It’s very therapeutic.

What do I write?  Start with a letter to the one who betrayed you.  Even if they never get to read it, you will be able to write what you really want to say.  It may be mixed in with things you don’t really mean, but you will get the benefit of it.  It will give voice to what you need to express and may help you be able to express it in a less crazy way than you would have.

revengeMaybe it would help to write a letter to the “other” woman or man as it may be in your case.  They are also an injured party in the scandalous, mess.  I know the natural inclination is to call names, lots of names and maybe even seek revenge.  If you don’t seek revenge, you can’t tell me that at least thoughts of something bad happening to them haven’t gone through your mind.  Fess up now.  Remember, I’ve been there.

Healing is ultimately what we need.  It’s a process.  It takes time, lots of time.  If you’ve just been betrayed, you aren’t going to like what I suggest as a next step.  It’s not something you will feel like doing at all.  It’s something you may think you will never be able to do.  But it’s the first step toward a healed heart, and I know you want that.  I’m not saying you have to do it right away either, but the sooner you can take this step, the faster you will walk toward wholeness.

Healing starts with a choice.  You have to choose to forgive.  You do it for you.  No, the other person doesn’t deserve it, but you do.  When you don’t forgive, you become a prisoner to your own bitter thoughts and feelings and the one who is truly punished, is you.

When we’ve been hurt, we become inclined to wall out the world to protect our own heart.  We aren’t willing to risk being hurt again.  By doing this, we actually hurt ourselves even more, though.  With a wall around our heart to keep the bad away from us, we also keep the good away.  Our heart never gets what it truly needs, because no one can see it or reach in and touch it.

When you make the conscious choice to forgive, in time, your feelings will catch up.  I promise!  Yes, situations will arise where words are said and opportunities for re-wounding will be present.  You’ll feel like you’re back to square one.  When you reach that spot, remember your choice to forgive and you stick to it or do it again.  Do it over and over again if you have to.  Eventually, you will find yourself in a place where you are surprised to realize, you really do forgive.  You can feel it.  You’re a bigger and better person because of it.

You have to come to a place where you choose to not allow your mind to be consumed with the whole situation.  Stop replaying the scenarios over and over in your mind.  Stop allowing yourself to be tormented with a need to get to the bottom of a story.  You may or may not have all of the details, but does it really matter?  The damage has already been done.  You have to come to a place where you choose to let go.  Finding yourself in a situation involving betrayal is emotionally exhausting.  I’ve come to the place where the internal struggle was so intense, I had no choice but to let go.  My mind and my body couldn’t handle the stress of it anymore.  If I didn’t lay it down, it would do me in.

When it comes to healing, I can’t help but to talk about God’s role in all of this for me.  I told you that I had a time when I was angry with God over what I had experienced.  God wasn’t the one who betrayed me.  He didn’t create us to be robots that he sits up in the sky and controls.  He made us human and gave us the freedom to choose our actions.  It was a human who betrayed you.  We are all human and humans aren’t perfect.  We all make mistakes.  I’ve hurt others and others have hurt me.  Maybe they hurt me more, but that doesn’t matter.  I may not be able to trust humans to the degree that I would like to, but I know I can trust God to take care of me and heal my heart.  He’s come through every time.Don't lose hope

When you let go, you find yourself in a calm place.  When you’ve forgiven and let go, you find yourself in a calm and peaceful place.  When you trust God to heal your heart, you find yourself in a calm, peaceful and loving place.  That’s the place I would hope for you, my friend.  Will you join me here?

What About the Parents???

I hope you aren’t expecting a light hearted, carefree, easy going or humorous post today, because that’s not what I’m feeling.  I am not even sure of the direction that this will take, but I’ve had some thoughts stirring that needed to come out on paper, so here we go.

I am a parent.  It’s one of the roles that many often dream about even when they are very young.  I was one of those dreamers.  I remember at a very young age pretending to be a mommy to my baby dolls.  I couldn’t wait to go to Kmart to spend my allowance on things for my fake babies.  I was so good at parenting as a five year old.  It was so easy!  I just knew that I would grow up to be the best mommy in the whole wide world.  Three kids, two boys and a girl to be specific, a husband, house and a van, that was my big dream!  What I ended up with was four kids, three boys and a girl to be specific, three husbands (not all at the same time), a few houses over the years and several cars, which included the van.  But what happened to the most important part of the dream, being the best mommy in the whole wide world?  Well, it just wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be.

My big thought today is, “What about the parents?”   Many very disturbing events have made the news recently.  I don’t think that you can find a corner anywhere in the world, that news of the shootings in Tucson, Colorado and Wisconsin hasn’t touched.  Of course, we think about the victims first, then the actual shooters themselves and then the parents.  I can’t help but try to imagine myself in the parent’s shoes on these occasions.  How devastating it would be for a parent!  To find out that one of your own children, that once innocent baby that you held in your arms, had committed such a horrendous, senseless act.   It’s simply unimaginable!  My heart is broken, not only for the parents of the victims, but the parents of the shooters, as well.

I’m thinking of the mom who posted on Facebook this morning.  Today is her daughter’s birthday and it was a year ago today that she hugged her daughter for the last time before she went to prison on drug charges.  How my heart hurts for her and her daughter.

I’m thinking of the single mom who lost her child to a drug overdose and my heart hurts.  I’m thinking of the parents who lost their bipolar child to suicide.  Many had passed judgment on these parents for their children’s behavior during the short years of their lives.

I’m thinking of the struggles between children and parents that I’ve witnessed in an office complex where I once worked.  The children were often very loud and aggressive and those working in the complex were put off by the behavior and registered complaints with the complex management.  Insensitive signs were even hung in the common restrooms by someone who thought the kid situation needed to be addressed.  Did the person who hung the signs not know that these children were visiting the complex for therapy because they were autistic?  Yes, my heart hurts for these parents too, and their children.  So many scenarios we could talk about, all heartbreaking.

Many are quick to jump on the parents and point fingers.  Certainly the parents have done something wrong in their parenting that caused their child’s behavior, or addiction or suicide.  Is that fair?  Why are we so quick to place ourselves in the role of judge and jury and pass sentence on parents?  It happens all of the time.  Who hasn’t been in a grocery store or a restaurant and seen someone’s child act in a ridiculous, unbecoming way and we’ve thought or maybe even said, “They need to do something with their child”, or “If I were those parents, I would (fill in the blank)”.

Granted, parents do make mistakes and I am not saying that all parents are innocent and haven’t had a role in how a child turned out.  I’m not talking about parents who are abusive or are alcoholics, addicts, criminals or horrible examples here.   I’m talking about parents who do all they can to raise their children in the best way they know how.  None of us have our parenting skills 100% perfected.  We all have flaws of some kind.  Go ahead and admit it mom and dad.  You’ll feel better.  That perfect super parent cape is a heavy weight that will keep you from flying anywhere, so take it off!  Easier said than done, right!  Expectations are high for parents and as a result, we often carry a huge amount of guilt.

It’s easy for those who have not had children or who have had perfect children to make flippant comments about or even to other parents.  Yes, I am speaking from experience here.  Before I had my perfect kids, I knew exactly how to be a perfect parent and I’m sure I passed judgment on someone along the way.  But now I know the flip side.   I can still remember comments regarding my parenting that were made to me over the years that were so insensitive and hurtful.  You see, I didn’t have the perfect kids that you did.  How would you judge me if I told you that I had raised an addict, an alcoholic, a criminal, a child with mental illness or all of the above?  Certainly, you would wonder about my child’s upbringing.  You might even want to dissect my parenting ability or debate about parenting styles.  You might even consider unfriending me on Facebook.  Was my child’s behavior my fault???

Of course, I know that I’m exposing my own feelings of guilt here.  Every parent who hasn’t had perfect kids feels guilt, sometimes massive amounts of guilt.  I’ve worked on resolving my own guilt issues and I’m not here to debate what was or wasn’t my fault.  I’m addressing two groups of people here.

To group number one, the group that still has not had children or that never will, and the parents of perfection; to you I say, give us imperfect parents a break!  Ease up a little.  Have some sensitivity and compassion.  If you haven’t walked in another parent’s shoes, please don’t be so quick to throw stones.  There is no “Super Parent” cape, so if you think you’ve been wearing one, you’ve just been running around naked or sporting some really ugly spandex.

To the group of parents who have known the heartbreak of your children not growing up and following the beautiful dreams that you’ve envisioned for them; to you I say you’re not alone.  It’s not all your fault.  It’s time to let go of the guilt and if you can’t do that, then get help.  You deserve that for yourself.  And for any mistakes you did make, there is forgiveness here.  You deserve to be free to fly!

This world can be a cold, dark and lonely place.  Parents need lots of support during the hard times.  When you see a parent friend having a really difficult time, don’t pull away because the situation looks to overwhelming.  When the going gets tough, instead of pointing fingers, extend a hand.   Get involved in being a part of the solution and consider it an investment in your own future, because it is.  Even if you don’t have the answers, you can still be available to stand with and for your friend.  You’ve heard it said and I do
believe that it truly does take a village to raise a child.

Looking for the Fountain of Youth…

I’ve never posted on Craig’s List but if I did, here’s my want ad for the day: “Looking for the fountain of youth, a.s.a.p.!”  If anyone really did find a fountain that would bring back youth, they would certainly build a resort around it and become a billionaire.

You won’t get me on the expensive surgeries that will restore a more youthful look (just yet anyway), but I’ve been a sucker for the beauty product infomercials that claim to have the one secret, key ingredient that will dissolve my wrinkles and bring back my youthful glow.  Save your money!  I can tell you, there is no secret ingredient!

As I approach the birthday that will qualify me to become a resident in an “adult only” community, I can’t help but have a few thoughts on this aging dilemma that I face.  I remember my 30th birthday.  That was the hard one for me and now I have to laugh at myself over that.  Turning thirty was a piece of cake in comparison to what I’m looking at now.  I can’t even bring myself to let the new number slip from my lips.  It’s amazing to me how my definition of what I consider “old” has become older the older that I get.  In my thirties, I considered where I’m at now to be classed as “old”.  Now that I’m here, old is more like when you’re in your nineties, right!

It’s not fair that we don’t have a choice, but have to succumb to the aging process!  But then, just when did life decide to play fair?

It’s just not right for an 18 year old to start getting gray hair.  It wasn’t just a few hairs here and there.  It was one spot on the front left side of my head.  I was a brunette then and had this gray streak that wasn’t a pretty highlight that I paid big bucks for.  When I was in my twenties, someone who didn’t know my name, described me as the “woman with the spider in her hair”.  I bought my first bottle of hair color soon after that.

It’s not fair that I went into menopause at age 40, ten years earlier than the average women does.  Of course, we’ve already established the fact that “I’m Not Average” in an earlier blog post.  I did find some advantages in early menopause though.  Hot flashes weren’t one of them!

What a shock it was when I got contacts for the first time.  I had only been wearing glasses to read, so I never had them on when I was in front of a mirror.  My first trip to the bathroom with the contacts was a literal eye opener.  Where did all those wrinkles come from all of a sudden?  I looked so much younger before I got contacts…  So of course, the contacts had to go!

I learned by trial and error, never let anyone see your face if you have to bend over in public.  I was in my late 40’s and happened to see myself in the mirror as I bent over to brush my hair.  It was a horror show!  Skin just hanging off my cheek bones!  How and when did that happen?

In my Physical Therapy sessions now, there is an exercise that I have to do that really makes me swallow my pride.  It’s called “Inch worms”.  I have to walk on my hands and feet on the floor and my butt in the air.  I’ve said what my face looks like upside down, but to have to see the skin hanging from my arms and around my knees and knowing everyone else that can see that too is torture!  I’ve begged the Physical Therapist to not make me do this exercise, but to no avail…

It’s not fair that body parts succumb to gravity and head south!  The word “perky” is no longer in the description of any body part.  “Tube socks with golf balls in the toe”, is a more fitting description and the rounded hips, well…  the cheek and thigh tend to meld into one continuous mass.  Enough with the disgusting word pictures!

I took up running to try to slow down the aging process, maybe even reclaim some of my lost youth.  Running has improved the appearance of some body parts and I am much healthier than I was a year and a half ago.  I probably am healthier and more fit than I’ve been since my early twenties, but in spite of that, my body still betrays me.  I still spend more time with medical professionals than I would like.  It’s so not fair!

In a previous job, I spent a lot of time working in retirement communities and with clients who I considered to be “old” compared to my stage of life at the time.  It was quite sad actually.  Some were very healthy, but they had let themselves become “old” in their minds.  They saw themselves as “old”; therefore, they were justified in living the stereotypical, “old” lifestyle.  They let their age determine their level of activity and there are just certain things that they just couldn’t do because of it.  The reality was that there was much they could do if they applied a little effort.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but I found that the general mindset was that they were now retired, so for many that meant the end to “accomplishment”.  They would no longer be expected to accomplish anything and any unfulfilled dreams could be let go of.  They no longer nourished those dreams and their dreams were allowed to die.  The reality was that they now had the freedom and more time to realize their dreams.

Life for many had become a waiting game.  They were waiting for the end of life, when the reality was that they still could have many years ahead of them to live.

As I now find myself in this new place, regardless of how old I live to be, I always want to be useful, to have a purpose.  I want to always be doing something to better myself and to help others.  I still want to work toward those unfulfilled dreams.  I’m choosing to not become “old” in my mind; therefore, I think I have found the fountain of youth.  You’ve heard it said, “You’re only as old as you think you are”.  It doesn’t matter how old my outer shell gets.  (Ok, so I admit it’s still kind of hard to say that last sentence.)  I’m young in my mind.  Life isn’t fair and even though my body may betray me, I’m determined to make the best of this aging process.  Like fine wine, I too, will become better with age, so I raise my glass and say, “Cheers!” and “Happy Birthday to me!”

I choose to die living, not live dying.  Who wants to celebrate with me?