It Changed Me

26.2 miles. Sunshine. Music. Runners. Posters. American Flags. Helicopters. Marines. Family. Strangers. Cheers. Clapping. So much inspiration.

It. Changed. Me.

For the first time in my life, I was PRESENT for it all. Immersed in all of the experience. The energy melted into my being. Like being transported to another place, another capacity of time, I was completely in it. And it felt amazing. My legs held me strong, propelling me forward. My lungs happily exchanging air. My breath so rhythmic, it was calming. “I’m doing it,” I smiled, high-fiving my brother at mile 18.

This was beyond a runner’s high. This was a transformation.

The disabled war veterans competing, the hundreds of marines lining the fuel stations, the race course and greeting all at the finish line with a medal was humbling and inspirational. Gratitude doesn’t quite capture what I feel for all servicemen and servicewomen.

This race was a test for me. A test of my mental capacity and ability to push through. I needed to do this. I needed to get to the other side. And the relative ease in which I accomplished this feat, was exhilarating. More than a race, it was a marker for me of where I am beyond any physical measure.

Running and completing a marathon requires dedication, commitment, perseverance, flexibility, desire. Running in the Marine Corps Marathon requires all of it…but then humbles you in a way that is uplifting and motivational.

Well, I think I just might be a runner!

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Steps

Are you overcome with joy? With anger? With guilt? Resentment? Happiness? Anxiety? Panic? Contentment? Gratitude? What is it that holds you so tightly? Is it strangling your very being or is it giving you much needed breath? Does it enable you to grow or does it stifle your dreams? Does it look you in the face and lie or does it hold truth in all its spoken and unspoken words?

On the contrary, maybe you have overcome hurt, pain, illness. Maybe you have overcome a life full of shadows, emptiness, and dead-ends. Maybe you have overcome being weak. Maybe you have softened the hard edges of your untrusting self. But maybe you are still waiting to overcome that day when your knees buckled beneath you.

All of the emotions are a kaleidoscope creating colors so bright that some offend your very eyes while others offer a soothing break. With each emotion know you are taking steps. Steps. Some may be forward and some backward. But it’s movement. And such is better than standing still.

Wisdom (from a 7 year old)

I admit, I approached the Fourth of July, in fact the whole week, with a bit (maybe a lot?) of melancholy. Maybe it was hard to shake? But maybe I didn’t try? And you know what….I’m not so sure that is a bad thing. Why? Because I was aware, very aware of how I was feeling. And I think it’s so important to feel, to process every emotion.. even the ones that unexpectedly pop up, even the ones that don’t. Selfishly, it was hard watching families share the day together – I wanted the same. My mom’s friend commented “Oh, you have no kids today? Enjoy this time!” I couldn’t even muster a full (fake) smile to her words that were in so direct contrast to my wishes. Not too long after, my mom looked to a woman she was speaking to and asked “Is it okay that I tell her?” and then across the boat dock loudly stated “She had Stage 3 Breast Cancer!” This woman’s battle, who I did not know, my mom suddenly felt – as I sat with my brother about 10 feet away from her – should be announced to me at that moment. What??

Truthfully my mom’s energy is not one that is positive. Managing how I allow her energy to affect me can be draining in and of itself. But still I was aware. The whole day. I consciously breathed in the salt water air, felt the ocean breeze against my body, and enjoyed with a vengeance the sea salt and vinegar Cape Cod chips. My brother made us all belly laugh as is his talent. And my sweet nieces gave me so much unconditional love as I knew they would. My dearest sister-in-law and I shared a few eye rolls as she struggled (understandably so) to manage my mother’s behavior. And my father, well with each year I  have come to appreciate more and more his patience and kindness and calm way. How I wish I were more like him.

But the highlight of the day was when my 7 year old  niece looked at me and said “This is the best day ever!” We had done nothing out of the ordinary this day – boating, tubing, eating. So I curiously and somewhat perplexed asked “Why?” And quite matter-of-factly she stated “Because first, it’s Fourth of July. And.. I got to eat a cake pop and a cannoli. And I got to tube. And I got to stand there in the front of the boat.” And there in that moment all wrapped up in my beautiful, wisdom-full niece was gratitude and mindfulness and love. It quite literally stopped me, gave me pause. I am so happy I was present for that gift.

Gratitude

It’s been awhile, I know. While  much to say, I just couldn’t find the time to sit and write. But I have been processing…a lot. After four years of contemplating meeting with a counselor, I finally made the decision to talk with one. And she is perfect. Funny, she did ask me “So why are you here? You seem to have it all together?” My answer “Guilt. I don’t want to feel guilty anymore.”

With my meeting Ellen (that is my new counselor’s name), my runs, my now daily sun salutation practice, my now daily meditation practice, and my overall being a bit more present, I have found a new place inside of me. However small, it’s new. And one strong realization of this place, is that as much as I feel more present, and I am able to think clearer, I am still very aware of my avoidance of feeling. It’s a blocking actually. Surely, it’s a defense mechanism. It’s an unhappy place and reminiscent of my past. And I so don’t want to go back to that feeling.

Which brings me to the purpose of my post today…gratitude. In the words of my yoga teacher “Find something to be grateful for, we are all fortunate people,” I am doing just that. Every time she speaks these words, my mind immediately thinks of my two boys and my lips curve into a smile. Gratitude does not have to come from something momentous. Find it in the smallest of spaces – like a cup of hot chocolate or a vase of fresh wildflowers or a warm fuzzy blanket. So much surrounds us, so many itty-bitty miracles. The only thing preventing us from seeing them is ourselves.

So in no particular order, here are 10 tiny, itty-bitty parts of life that hold space in my tote bag of gratitude…..

My adirondack chairs that welcome pause…my handmade tea cup molded with my manager’s hands and so thoughtfully given to me…my Runner’s Magazine for all it’s inspirational stories and words of motivation…my camera to capture so many amazing moments that I can reflect upon…my new sneakers because they make me feel like I am running on clouds…my barn door because other than being exactly what I had wanted design wise, it was built just for me…my thieves oil for starting my mornings with a calming smell…mason jars for their versatility and simple beauty…the candle in the window I plug in every night as a small gesture for our soldiers…my hair elastic for just simply pulling my hair back.

What are you grateful for?