“A Fall Apart Just Waiting to Happen”…

fall apart puzzelYep, that’s me!  You’ve probably heard people describe someone as, “an accident waiting to happen.”  Well, “a fall apart waiting to happen” is kind of the same thing.  I’ve found myself feeling this way on occasion lately.  You know, those days that all of us feel at some point, no matter how positive we try to be.  Not one of us walking on this planet is totally immune to negative thoughts and feelings that attack our mind and emotions. 

If you’ve read my blog, you may already know of the ongoing struggle that I’ve had with running injuries.   I talkedfall apart poster about the last MRI report in a post called, “Coping with Injury, a Photo Journal”.  I did have a little fun with that post!  It’s been about three months since then and I’m just starting to get back into a few easy workouts each week.  My body sure doesn’t want to cooperate, though.   Add the ongoing spine and sciatic nerve issues into that hip and hamstring mix, and right there you have what sounds like an old lady just complaining about all her ailments.  I sooooo, never wanted it to be this way!     

Gumby stretchesI’ve had some other minor health things creep in on top of those I’ve mentioned.  It’s so frustrating when you go to your Primary Care Physician and they have to send you off to other specialists.  I’ve got six different doctors I am seeing and a seventh I’m avoiding.  Well, maybe I’m avoiding the sixth one, too.   Regardless, I feel like I’ve been pieced and parted out in so many directions.  The healthcare system must think I’m like a Gumby figure and each doctor is stretching a different body part in their direction.  Gumby meltsFrankly, even with all the stretching, I’m just not that flexible!  And then you have all the specialist’s higher copays!  I’ll stop right there with that discussion.  The state of our healthcare system is not the hot topic than I wanted to get into today.  Let’s not make Gumby have a melt down!

The point is, I’ve had a few days when I wake up feeling like all of these little irritations and inconveniences have been combined together into this huge glob.  The ugly glob is present, just waiting to greet me when I open my eyes.  It sits on my chest, its weight causing pressure, its toxic gases filling my lungs, its fog clouding my vision and infiltrating my thoughts.  For whatever reason, this day, it’s difficult to shake off.   I feel consumed by it.  I stumble through the dark to the kitchen to make coffee.  The shadow follows.  Maybe the caffeine will help.  I turn on the Fear.1computer.  Maybe there will be something positive and uplifting in my inbox or on Facebook.  But before I can even have my first sip or sign in to anything, an all too familiar fear creeps in.  It’s been awhile, but I’ve felt this before.  Its fear of some impending doom, some catastrophe that’s just waiting to knock on my door.  My cell phone rings with an unknown number.  This is it that call I knew would come… 

Tell me I’m not the only one!  You’ve been there, too, haven’t you!  It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but there was a long season in my life, when this was the way I felt most days.  I would eventually be able to shake it off, but only to have the glob visit again the next day. 

One of my son’s has become very interested in cycling.  He joined a racing team and had his first race this past weekend.  I was photo (34)excited for him as we made the hour drive to the race location.  The course was about a mile loop that participants had to circle many times.  A good part of the course was out of our view, and the multicolored kit clad riders were going by so fast.  I had a hard time seeing my son each time he made his way past our vantage point.  Twice during the race, the announcer shouted over a speaker, “There’s been a crash on the course!”  Can you guess where I’m going with this story?  There it was that feeling of impending dome.  Thankfully, my son was not involved in either of the crashes and there were no serious injuries, but those minutes spent waiting to see him go by were pretty intense for a mom.

Blob.1I’m no psychologist able to say what causes a person to feel this way, but I can speak from my own experience.  That fear of impending dome, the feelings of some foreboding evil hovering nearby, just waiting to swoop down and pounce on my head, that kind of fear was learned over time.   The situations in life that were real, such as living with an abusive alcoholic and addict that did cause physical harm, actually being the victim at the end of a knife or sawed off shot gun, receiving those dreaded phone calls with bad news, living through an emergency medical situation with my body being the one transported in an ambulance or having to many visits to emergency rooms with people you love…  When it happens enough, you learn fear.  When you combine those real situations with the ones that you begin to imagine and then come to expect, well, there you’ve just created the ultimate Halloween cocktail!  And let me tell you, it’s a fear filled, seductively strong drink!

Fear isn’t something to be messed with.  Fear is destructive, even devastating.  It will hold you down, even suffocating your very last breath.  Fear keeps us in a dead, dry place.  It keeps us from really living.  It keeps us out of healthy relationships.  We won’t take the risk to care and love.  It holds us back in our careers; it keeps us from reaching our goals and even keeps us from daring to have any dreams to chase after.  It keeps us small, keeps us invisible and unnoticed.  Fear is an evil prison guard that keeps us locked in a very cold, damp and dark place.

Courage poster.1

So how do you get out of it, break free?  Like I said, I’m no physiologist, so what works for me, might not be the same as what worksBravery.1 for you.  First of all, you have to be able to recognize whether the fear you feel is the healthy kind that keeps you safe or if it’s a fear that’s debilitating to you.  If it’s hurting you, it needs to go!  Recognizing that it’s an issue is a huge victory in itself.  You have to recognize something is broken before you will attempt to fix it.  Even taking a risk to consider it might be an issue takes courage.  Be brave.

I have to break in for important practical advice right here.  If you are in an unsafe place, like an abusive situation, get out now.  I know it takes great courage to take this step.  It may require knowledge of resources available to help.  Know there is help and there are safe places to go.  There are agencies that can help online.  Find them where you are.  You have to protect your physical body from harm before you can work on your emotional wellbeing.  Please, be brave!

Once you recognize that fear is something that is hurting you, it’s not like you can just tell it to go away.  You can only do that when it first makes an ugly appearance.  Once you’ve allowed fear to move in and stay with you, you’ve fed it and allowed it to grow, it’s Cat couragenot so easy.  The truth is we all need help with things like this.  We were not meant to do this life alone.  Other people were put on this earth so we wouldn’t have to be alone.  I don’t care how independent you are.  It might be fear that made you feel a need to be such an independent person and if that’s the case, fear has just succeeded l in keeping you in prison.  I’m saying this, not to cause anyone to feel under attack, but as one who allowed the ugly life situations cause me to put on, “Miss Independent”, as a banner across my chest for a good number of years.  I remember one occasion just before entering into my third marriage.  I can still see myself standing outside on a dark driveway, screaming into the face of my soon to be spouse, “You’re not going to make me your slave, you’re not going to tell me what to do…!”  It’s amazing that he still married me after that little explosion.   My point is, don’t try to break free on your own.  Positive, encouraging friends with wise advice, churches or professional counselors, they are all there for you to get help.   Take the risk to join the human race again and connect with other people to help you.  This too, takes courage.  Be brave!

Since I wasn’t intending to write a book today, I’ll wrap this up.  My almost last piece of advice would be this.  When you first see Courage.1that glob trying to make another appearance, whether it be a little thought, feeling or a little action to pass it a tasty morsel and feed it again, immediately stop yourself.  You have to stop it dead in its tracks.  Don’t entertain it, not even for a second.  If you need help to do this, then make that call or send that text.  Fill yourself with all the positive encouragement and support you can get your mind, eyes, ears and hands on.  Your life is on the line here.  All of your relationships, goals, and dreams have one thing in common.  They need you to be healthy in order to have them to the full extent that they were meant to be had.  It’s worth the effort and you are totally worth it!  If you blew it yesterday, today is a new day.  Be brave!

Lastly, I’m no longer going to think of myself as “a fall apart waiting to happen”.  Yes, the health issues seem to continue, but I’m Strong and Courageous.1choosing to focus on the good.  I have supportive friends and family.   I know that I’m in the good hands of doctors who will do the best they can within our healthcare system; to do what’s right for me.  Best of all and what brings me the biggest strength, I believe I’m in the good hands of a loving God who is big enough to take care of me in this broken world.  Bad things do happen, but he works it for good on my behalf.  It takes courage to let go of control and trust an unseen entity with the details of my life, but my experience tells me, God is really good at what he does.  He’s always come through for me, every time!   I can be strong and courageous because I’m not doing this alone.  Yes, I will be brave!

Advertisements

Brought to You by the Letter “J”

Two kids left to talk about, so two more days for this proud mom to use her bragging rights!  Today is “J”’s day.  Actually, let’s refer to him as “JN”.  You see, we have two “J”’s, so the next one you’ll meet tomorrow.  I also gave “JN” the heads up that I would be talking about him.  He wasn’t worried about what I would say either, so once again, I’ve been privileged with the liberty to share.  His comment was that the last manger scenetime I shared about him, it helped someone and helping people is where “JN’s” heart is at.   That post was titled, “My Grown Up Christmas Gift”, if you care to take a peek.

“JN” is my 3rd born, who also made his way into this world by C-section.  He too, was over 9lbs. at birth.  He was born right after Thanksgiving that year and was introduced to the public in his debut as baby Jesus in our small town church Christmas play.  I waited backstage, holding my breath as the guy playing Joseph held “JN” high over his head for all to see.  It was a proud moment, but did Joseph really have to hold my baby boy up in the air that high???

It was very evident from the beginning that “JN” was a deep thinker.  His gaze was piercing as he watched the people around him.   He would wrinkle up his tiny forehead and stare into people’s eyes, as if he could read their minds and interpret their thoughts.  It was pretty wild!  I would love to have been able to know what was going on in that little brain at the time.

“JN” got lots of attention, too!  He was born ten years after his big brother and sister, who were very happy to have a new baby around.  So when “JN” wanted held or fed, his wishes were granted pretty much immediately.   Thankfully, “JN” was spared from having to endure the drama of child abuse that his older siblings had gone through in my previous marriages.  I’d say he had a pretty sweet life in those early years.

Things began to take a turn though as “JN” was nearing the end of the elementary school days. He started to develop some health issues child in hospitalwhich resulted in lots of doctor visits, biopsies, surgery, medications and hospitalizations.  One of his doctors was a specialist who was writing a text book at the time and because “JN”’s condition was so rare for a child, he was going to refer to his case in his textbook.  I don’t know if his case ever made the cut or not, but I thought it was interesting.  Maybe a student or another child was helped even then by “JN”.  Needless to say, no parent wants to have their child undergo this kind of trauma.  I’m sure “JN” doesn’t have fond memories of this season in his life.

dark-streetThe season that followed doesn’t contain fond memories for “JN” either.  He would be able to tell his story much better than I.  I really only know the story from the parent’s side.  The years that followed were the very painful years of addiction.  “JN” missed all of the normal fun of the teenage years.  Instead he learned the tough existence of drugs, the streets and dark alleyways.  He had times of wanting to be clean and would check in to a rehab program, but it seemed he was caught in a vicious cycle of rehab and relapse.  These were nightmare years for all of us.

Maybe you think I’m a horrible mother for sharing this story with the world.  I might be that in your eyes, but I’m not in the eyes of my son.  I’m a mother who is proud of her son.  He’s clean now and he has been for a year and a half.  He’s been taking college courses, getting good grades, he lives on his own and he’s kept a full time job.  “JN” is intelligent, caring and obviously a fighter.  He’s still that deep thinker, too, and what he thinks most about is helping other people.  He goes to AA meetings, shares his story and sponsors others who are still struggling to be free.

No one knows the depths of the hell he went through in all of this, except for him.  For me to try to explain to you how hard he had to fight Strengthto get to where he is now would be a waste of space, because no matter how descriptive I get with my words, I couldn’t even begin to touch what he’s experienced.  So I’ll leave that story for him to tell.  What I will say is, if you are one who struggles with alcohol or addiction, why not visit one of those AA meetings.  You might run into my “JN”.  He’ll be the first to tell you, there is hope, there is help and there is healing.  You too can be free!

So “JN”, hear your momma loud and clear today, I’m super proud of you and I love you with all of my heart!

“Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.” – Susan Gale

#NaBloPoMo

“The Hip Bones Connected to the…”

chain link fenceI never wanted to be one to grow older and complain about all my aches and pains, so I swear, I’m not complaining here!  There is a moral to this story, I promise!

You probably have someone in your life that seems to thrive on relating their latest illness to the world.  I remember a neighbor years ago who lived on the other side of a chain link fence from me.  I loved spending time outside, either soaking up the sun or working in my garden.  Because of this one neighbor, I felt I had to operate in stealth mode to enjoy my backyard.  Venturing out the back door involved preplanning.   I avoided times that my neighbor was sure to be outside.  I’d peer out the windows for any sign of movement around her house and if the coast was clear, I would venture out.  I cautiously remained on the alert for any sound from across the fence, watching from the corner of my eye with one foot pointed in the direction of my door.  I was ready to make a mad dash for the house if needed.  If my neighbor managed to catch me off guard, I’d be stuck listening to all her health issues until I could think of an excuse to break away.  It was the same dreary conversation, over and over again.  You know what I’m talking about, right!

I’m not going to be that neighbor!  This blog is about being real, right where I’m at today.  So for those who care and have read any of my previous posts on this aging body, here goes.

First, I’ll give a little update on the abdominal issues.  If you need to know the back story on this one, you can catch up here with: “I’m Not Average”Apparently, I’m not average at all.  I’m an overachiever!  In this case, it’s not a good thing.

I got to spend a day in the ER last week because of my midsection.   The issue is that I build up large amounts of scar tissue from to many surgeries and being septic twice now.  The scar tissue causes obstructions.   The doctor said that the average person with my scar tissue issues, has to have surgery every two years.  I’m two months away from the one year mark of the last surgery and I’ve experienced symptoms of a partial obstruction twice now since the beginning of this year.  In previous events related to this, that’s been the pattern prior to the hospitalizations.  I’m updating you on this one, not because I’m looking for sympathy.  But, if you’re the praying type, maybe you could swing some prayers this way.  Another surgery would not be a good thing for me!  As a matter of fact, one doctor said it would be a mess.  OK, enough on that!

Here is what I want to focus on today.  It’s my “pain in the neck”!  It was in December when I found out what the problem was.  I have three bulging disks in my neck and two more disks with bone protruding into the nerve.   Thankfully, there is not so much pain in the neck anymore.  Most of the pain runs down my arm and my hand feels like it’s been asleep much of the time.

I’ve been in physical therapy now for a couple months and I put myself in traction at home every day.  Things are improving!  Initially, I had to give up running, but I’m happy to say that I’ve slowly been able to work my way into “minutes” of running on my schedule.  I finally have a couple days this week where my coach was able to assign “miles”, instead of “minutes”!  If you’re a runner, you can understand how this makes me want to do a happy dance!

Being in physical therapy for different parts of my body since I took up this running hobby has increased my awareness of how kinetic changeamazing our bodies were created to be.  You might remember the song we sang as kids, “The hip bones, connected to the leg bone.  The leg bones connected to the knee bone.  The knee bones connected to the …” and on it goes.  It’s all part of the Kinetic Chain.  Each joint is connected by bone, muscle and tissue to the next joint and the next and the next.  When the movement of one part of our body is hindered or a part is injured it affects the other parts in the chain.  You might not even have symptoms of a problem right away.  Injuries can build up over time and all of a sudden, your body is screaming at you.  The pain you feel might not even be where the root of your problem is.  The problem can originate somewhere up or down the chain.

I love the analogy of the different parts of the body being like us, who we were created to be with the gifts and talents we each possess.  One person may be like the mouth.  They are just naturally a very vocal person with a gift of eloquent speech.  They are able to be a voice on behalf of those who have no voice.

shoulder for cryingOne person may be like a shoulder.  They are built to be strong.  They’re the burden bearer or a shoulder to cry on.  They’re not only able to carry their own heavy loads, but also the loads of others.

Even the unseen, seemingly insignificant parts of our bodies; all have a specific function that is necessary to our existence.   Each part is connected in the Kinetic Chain.   If one part is hurt and neglected, the other parts of the body will be affected.  What good is a mouth if it’s wired shut?  A mouth without the tongue to taste, teeth to chew and a throat to swallow is useless.   A mouth without a head and a face to hold it in place would just look weird.  It needs the other parts to fulfill the purpose it was created for.

This is really what’s on my mind today.  Sorry it took me so long to get here.  It boils down to the simple fact that we need each other!  Why do we isolate ourselves from others?  How can we be so proud and arrogant to judge another person to be of lesser value than ourselves?  Why is it that so many try to operate on their own, without the help of others?  Remember Herby, the dentist from “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, as he declared, “I’m independent”?  Even Herby found out he needed others, but almost at the cost of his life.

I’m guilty of all of the above at one point or another, so I’m not just talking to you.  That neighbor across the fence needed me.  I listened and tried to be kind, but I really didn’t care that much.  I avoided her in every way I could.  I really couldn’t help her with her medical needs, but I could have offered encouraging words or maybe a smile to brighten her day.  Maybe even I could have enjoyed the outside I loved, by helping in her yard.

It’s true, when one part hurts, the others will hurt.  Turning a blind eye to the needs of others will eventually affect you.  Devaluing those who work under you in the workplace will eventually affect you.  Neglecting the people that are a pain in the neck, butt or whatever, will eventually affect you.

No, we can’t be all things to all people.  We weren’t meant to be.  But we can be the best at being who we were created to be and using the gifts and talents we were given for the betterment of humanity.  When we refuse to function and fulfill our purpose, when we become intolerant, unfairly judge, criticize or belittle another human, we hurt a part of ourselves that is valuable and necessary to our existence.

So here’s the moral of our little story today.  We, as a member of the human race need to start focusing on our overall health and well being.  We need to start thinking long term, for the sake of our existence.  Let’s begin to take better care of ourselves, which means taking care of each other.  I need you and whether you like it or not, you need me. You’ve heard it said, “It takes a village…”  All of humanity is a part of our village, our Kinetic Chain.   So let’s, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.   Just do it!

change

Chapter 2013, Page 1 of 365

2013It’s 9:00 a.m. on the first day of 2013 and I am sitting here at my kitchen counter, in pain and seriously considering going back to bed.  That’s not how I planned for this year to begin!  But, one of the lessons that life has taught me is that I can’t control everything.  I’ve been especially taught that in regard to my health these last couple years.  No matter how hard I work to stay healthy, there are just some things that are out of my hands.  Right now it appears that whatever is going on has to do with my spine.  I had x-rays last week and an MRI just yesterday, so I don’t have the results yet.  If you see me out in public, moving my appendages around in strange ways, it’s because I’m trying to bring relief to the pain going down my arm and my legs.

It’s the New Year, a time when we focus on changes we want to make in our lives.  Often, our New Year’s resolution has to do with weight loss and our health.  One of my goals in 2012 was to run a full marathon.  My body didn’t cooperate, so I wasn’t able to do that, but my mind was completely ready.  My first marathon from last May had to be rescheduled for January 20, 2013.  Last November, it became evident that I wasn’t even going to be able to do that, so I switched to the ½.  Now it’s even questionable as to whether I will be able to even walk that one.  Running is definitely out.

It’s so frustrating, so discouraging, to find myself having to take weeks off of training, yet again!  To feel like you have to almost start over, yet again…  I’ve taken up cycling for cross training in the meantime and I am having a blast with that, but I so want to run!

I have to admit, today I find myself in a weakened place.  T hey, (whoever “they” are) say to never admit to weakness, but we get real here.  We all have our weak moments.  We all have times when we need to be encouraged.  Today I will encourage myself with my own words.  Maybe they can encourage you, too!  Here is a blog post I wrote this last year: “Life Lessons from an Athlete”.  I’ve applied these principles to running, however, they can be applied to whatever it is you want to do in 2013.

I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

Life Lessons From an Athlete

PHX HalfI wrote a blog post this past February entitled, “I Wanna Be an Athlete”.  Little did I know that within a couple weeks of that post, well into training for my first marathon, I would be taken out of the game.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I took up running.  We saw the value of being healthy and making healthier life style changes and running was a way to move us in that direction.  As you know, running isn’t a sport that those qualifying for an AARP Card usually jump into.  It wasn’t easy, but it was a serious jump and we’ve gotten several races under our belts now, the longest for me being a ½ marathon.  My first full marathon was to be the Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon this past May, but that didn’t happen.

In March, while doing an intense speed workout, I had a hamstring and hip injury that brought me to an abrupt halt.   I was barely able to limp the three miles home.  I hate not being able to complete a workout the coach gives me!  Feeling desperate not to miss any training so close to my 1st marathon, I tried everything to speed up the healing.  Loads of stretching, physical therapy, ice, rest, nothing was working.  Along with the hamstring issue, the Sports Orthopedic Doctor found that I also had a lot of arthritis in my spine that was contributing to my pain and probably a stress fracture.  It became evident as the weeks passed by that I would not be running my first marathon in May.  I was intensely disappointed!

At the same time in March, I learned that I had developed an incisional hernia from a surgery that I had last September.   (That’s a whole other drama that I wrote about in “I’m Not Average”.)  The lump on my belly was huge!  I called it my belly boob except the problem was that it was bigger than the original two.  This would require surgery, so I went ahead and scheduled that, hoping to heal the hip at the same time I was recovering from the surgery. It turned out that the surgeon not only had to repair the hernia we knew of, but found that I had many holes to repair.  The surgeon described it as looking like swiss cheese.  The eight previous abdominal surgeries had done a number on my midsection.  Thus the surgery and the recovery time turned out to be a bigger ordeal than was originally planned.

I’ve not been able to run for over three months now!  If you are a runner, you certainly understand how painful this is.  Sadness wells th_aging_gracefully_exercise_painup when you see other runners on the road or when you drive down roads you usually run on or your spouse suits up to hit the road.  You even begin to crave those nasty GU packets!  What was really painful was being sidelined for three races that I was already signed up to run.  Reduced to being a race T-shirt collector, I still attended and cheered on my husband as he ran those races, including the race that was to be “our” first marathon.  Bittersweet as it was, I was so proud of him as he crossed that finish line!

All that said, I’ve had lots of time to re-think this “wanna be an athlete” thing.  I think there is much to be learned from athletes that can be applied in other areas of our lives.  Here is what I’ve learned.

  • Being an athlete changes the way you eat.  I’m an athlete.  I need to eat healthy food.  What I put into my body matters.
  • Being an athlete changes your daily activities.  Workouts “must” fit into your day.
  • Seeing yourself as an athlete changes the way you think about a workout.  I am an athlete; therefore hard work is what I do.
  • On a substandard, humorous level, it changes the way you see yourself.  It makes it a little more okay to be smaller on the top side if you’re a woman.
  • An athlete needs to have a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit.  You need to be strong in all three areas.

Athlete Sign

  • Athletes see themselves as WINNERS before they have even run the race or played the game.
  • Athletes push harder; they go above the norm, above the expected.  They push the limits, if there are limits.
  • Athletes go through periods of strict training.  They beat their bodies into shape to be able to accomplish their goal.
  • Athletes endure setbacks and injuries as being a part of the game.  They don’t give up but use it as time to gain strength or endurance in another area.
  • Once an athlete recovers from an injury or setback and is able to get back in the game, they forget what’s past and strain for what’s ahead.  They can’t afford to allow fear of the past to slow them down.
  • Athletes are persistent and determined.  They know what patient endurance means – “steady, active persistence”.
  • Athletes strip off everything that would hold them back, even the tiniest thing that would weigh them down.  They wear appropriate clothing and gear, specifically designed for their sport.
  • Athletes don’t allow themselves to be distracted.  They stay focused.  Their goal, the prize is always set before them.
  • Athletes work together with their team.  They help each other win the game.
  • Athletes find motivation and encouragement in those who have already endured through the agonizing pain that comes with training.  They look to those who have pushed through hardships and setbacks, those who have already attained high goals and already succeeded at winning.
  • They run hard or play the game as a fight to the finish and they get the prize.  And the rewards don’t suck!Running 1

I’m sure there is more that I will learn in this journey.  I’m at six weeks post surgery now and had my first physical therapy appointment this week.  I was hoping to hear that I was good to hit the road, but it looks like I’m going to need another two to four weeks to rebuild my core strength before I can run again.  The next scheduled race is the Napa to Sonoma ½ Marathon which is just over a month away.  I will probably have to walk most of this, but at least I won’t be sidelined.  My husband who will be running will just have more time at the finish line to enjoy the fruits of Napa while he waits for me.  🙂

th_AthleteEverydayHaving re-thought this athlete thing, I can tell you that I haven’t changed my mind.  The difference now is, I’m seeing myself as an athlete, because I am!  Life is an amazing race.  Let’s run it well, together!

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?

 

Life Lessons from an Athlete…

I wrote a blog post this past February entitled, “I Wanna Be an Athlete”.  Little did I know that within a couple weeks of that post, well into training for my first marathon, I would be taken out of the game.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I took up running.  We saw the value of being healthy and making healthier lifestyle changes and running was a way to move us in that direction.  As you know, running isn’t a sport that those qualifying for an AARP Card usually jump into.  It wasn’t easy, but it was a serious jump and we’ve gotten several races under our belts now, the longest for me being a ½ marathon.  My first full marathon was to be the Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon this past May, but that didn’t happen.

In March while doing an intense speed workout, I had a hamstring and hip injury that brought me to an abrupt halt.   I was barely able to limp the three miles home.  I hate not being able to complete a workout the coach gives me!  Feeling desperate not to miss any training so close to my 1st marathon, I tried everything to speed up the healing.  Loads of stretching, physical therapy, ice, rest, nothing was working.  Along with the hamstring issue, the Sports Orthopedic Doctor found that I also had a lot of arthritis in my spine that was contributing to my pain and probably a stress fracture.  It became evident as the weeks passed by that I would not be running my first marathon in May.  I was intensely disappointed!

At the same time in March, I learned that I had developed an incisional hernia from a surgery that I had last September.   (That’s a whole other drama that I wrote about in “I’m Not Average”.)  The lump on my belly was huge!  I called it my belly boob except the problem was that it was bigger than the original two.  This would require surgery, so I went ahead and scheduled that, hoping to heal the hip at the same time I was recovering from the surgery. It turned out that the surgeon not only had to repair the hernia we knew of, but found that I had many holes to repair.  The surgeon described it as looking like swiss cheese.  The eight previous abdominal surgeries had done a number on my midsection.  Thus the surgery and the recovery time turned out to be a bigger ordeal than was originally planned.

I’ve not been able to run for over three months now!  If you are a runner, you certainly understand how painful this is.  Sadness wells up when you see other runners on the road or when you drive down roads you usually run on or your spouse suits up to hit the road.  You even begin to crave those nasty GU packets!  What was really painful was being sidelined for three races that I was already signed up to run.  Reduced to being a race T-shirt collector, I still attended and cheered on my husband as he ran those races, including the race that was to be “our” first marathon.  Bittersweet as it was, I was so proud of him as he crossed that finish line!

All that said, I’ve had lots of time to re-think this “wanna be an athlete” thing.  I think there is much to be learned from athletes that can be applied in other areas of our lives.  Here is what I’ve learned.

  • Being an athlete changes the way you eat.  I’m an athlete.  I need to eat healthy food.  What I put into my body matters.
  • Being an athlete changes your daily activities.  Workouts “must” fit into your day.
  • Seeing yourself as an athlete changes the way you think about a workout.  I am an athlete; therefore hard work is what I do.
  • On a substandard, humorous level, it changes the way you see yourself.  It makes it a little more okay to be smaller on the top side.
  • An athlete needs to have a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit.  You need to be strong in all three areas.
  • Athletes see themselves as WINNERS before they have even run the race or played the game.
  • Athletes push harder; they go above the norm, above the expected.  They push the limits, if there are limits.
  • Athletes go through periods of strict training.  They beat their bodies into shape to be able to accomplish their goal.
  • Athletes endure setbacks and injuries as being a part of the game.  They don’t give up but use it as time to gain strength or endurance in another area.
  • Once an athlete recovers from an injury or setback and is able to get back in the game, they forget what’s past and strain for what’s ahead.  They can’t afford to allow fear of the past to slow them down.
  • Athletes are persistent and determined.  They know what patient endurance means – “steady, active persistence”.
  • Athletes strip off everything that would hold them back, even the tiniest thing that would weigh them down.  They wear appropriate clothing and gear, specifically designed for their sport.
  • Athletes don’t allow themselves to be distracted.  They stay focused.  Their goal, the prize is always set before them.
  • Athletes work together with their team.  They help each other win the game.
  • Athletes find motivation and encouragement in those who have already endured through the agonizing pain that comes with training.  They look to those who have pushed through hardships and setbacks, those who have already attained high goals and already succeeded at winning.
  • They run hard or play the game as a fight to the finish and they get the prize.  And the rewards don’t suck!

I’m sure there is more that I will learn in this journey.  I’m at six weeks post surgery now and had my first physical therapy appointment this week.  I was hoping to hear that I was good to hit the road, but it looks like I’m going to need another two to four weeks to rebuild my core strength before I can run again.  The next scheduled race is the Napa to Sonoma ½ Marathon which is just over a month away.  I will probably have to walk most of this, but at least I won’t be sidelined.  My husband who will be running will just have more time at the finish line to enjoy the fruits of Napa while he waits for me.  🙂

Having re-thought this athlete thing, I can tell you that I haven’t changed my mind.  The difference now is, I’m seeing myself as an athlete, because I am!  Life is an amazing race.  Let’s run it well, together!

Church Without Walls

ImageOnce again, I’ve been inspired to write by a Facebook post.  The friend posted about working with a group of people to help the homeless on the streets of San Francisco.  They weren’t just feeding people, but were interacting with them and really listening to their stories.  He commented on the big dreams that were still in the hearts of some, but had been held out of reach by the evils of addiction.  The friend related their activity to being “a church without walls”.

It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with a guy who was cutting my hair.  We got onto the subject of churches and he voiced his somewhat negative opinion of them.  I asked him what the ideal church would look like to him.  He said, “It would be a church without walls”.  That statement stuck with me and I’ve pondered it many times since.

I was raised in church and we moved often when I was growing up, so I got to see many differences in each church we attended.  Even when they all taught out of the same book, each minister seemed to have their own interpretation of how church life should be done.    Early on, I was exposed to the negative impact that results when a leader makes church life all about rules rather than a relationship with God.  I saw the damage that’s done when the one in charge abuses their power and uses the sermon to manipulate people rather then empower them to live their life in a positive way.  Early on, I saw the destruction that comes to the members when the Pastor lives a secret, darker life, on every other day than Sunday.

Disclaimer:  Don’t get me wrong here.  This post isn’t meant to bash the whole church.  I’ve seen and experienced way more good from church than I have negative.  I’m looking at the negative here, because that’s what seems to get the focus of the world outside the church and gives justification to those who want no part of it.  My wish is just to see that be different.

A church is more than just a name on a building down the street.  It’s supposed to be about the people.  The people in the building are the church.  That phrase, “a church without walls”, I had previously thought of more from the perspective of each individual church’s or denomination’s beliefs.  Many might identify themselves as being part of the same religion, however, the beliefs or interpretation of scriptures is often very different.  I saw these differences as being the walls that divided, walls that kept many people outside and have locked others inside.  No one is influenced in a really healthy, positive way by these models and any benefits gained, are limited.  These differences have caused issues, even wars, since the beginning of history.  How to get these walls to come down is a daunting and even though I hate to use this word, it seems to be an “impossible” task.

My friend’s Facebook post helps me see this in a different light, though.  It is possible to have a church without walls that every person on earth could be a part of, if they so choose to be.  We’ve all heard about “paying it forward” and “random acts of kindness”.  Many of us have enjoyed being a part of the Starbucks line where each person pays for the coffee of the person in the car behind them.  It sounds so simple, but what if we all made a conscious choice each day to love the people that cross our paths through our actions?  Even better, what if we looked for opportunities, even went out of our way to help someone, whether it be feeding the homeless on the streets of Phoenix or allowing ourselves to be inconvenienced to help a someone in need.  Making a lifestyle choice to “love people however I can with whatever I have” doesn’t have to be based on what we believe or if we attend a church or not.  Call me a dreamer if you want, but what a wonderful dream it would be, if each individual in the world could become,

                 “the church without walls”.   Just imagine…