Being called names out the window of a car…

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Biking today up a popular climb in Bend, a guy in a car slowed, nosed over toward the bike lane and yelled out the car window at me…

‘Fat C*^%!’

Ok.

First.  I wasn’t doing anything wrong and we have a really wide bike lane — I was way to the inside of it. He was the only car on the road. He wasn’t pissed at my biking skills or road etiquette.

Second.  C*^% is just a word.  Not one I own, accept or use.  It’s just a word to me. But he had some intended meaning and anger behind it and I understand that it is vulgar and offensive.

Third. DO NOT CALL ME FAT. That’s my own personal weapon of choice.  I am the only one that is allowed to call me fat. I usually use it when I’m beating the shit out of myself. Don’t try to validate my emotionally-messed up thinking by using my favorite self-loathing word…  Asshat.

Fourth. Hugely threatening to be solo on a stretch of road and have someone nose their car over (only enough to yell – I never worried about him hitting me with his car – just to be clear), slow…  YELL. Then pull back onto the road. I’ve heard too many stories about riders of all sorts being harassed by drivers. I’m pretty damn sure this wasn’t even me as a female being targeted. This was simply me as a cyclist.

Fifth. You made me slow down on a climb and I had to jack with all the gears just to keep moving and not tip over in my clips. Asshat X2.


I quickly texted Spencer so someone would have location/time stamp.  Also because if I didn’t do something I was going to start crying.  And if I got crying, I was going to need someone to come pick me and my bike up off the road….

There’s no crying in cycling.

I hate being called fat. I hate feeling intimidated. Crying is how I respond to most of that.  I fight the tears HARD, but then they usually fall. My reaction to stress has always been to cry. I am not a sappy crier. I’m a pissed off/embarrassed/ashamed/overwhelmed crier.  Those types of emotions and situations are MUCH more likely to trigger tears.

When the car was gone, someone knew my approximate whereabouts, I still had a hill to climb and a workout to get in….  I started pondering the episode and trying to decide whether to be pissed or cry.

I pretty quickly opted for pissed.

The word ‘fat’ is my own personal weapon. To have someone else lob it in my direction hurts. Always has. The worst memories I have of being bullied in high school and beyond include the word fat. Followed by ugly.  They were usually paired up. I hate both of those words. And it always scares me that they’re right – that I really am fat, ugly and ALL the emotional-laden BS that I attach to those words that they have NO CLUE even exists for me….

I have spent a lot of time trying to ‘grow’ past that notion. It took me about a mile of riding to realize…

UH….

This was NOT personal, this guy doesn’t know me. I wasn’t even going to ride this route today until the last minute,  so it was in NO WAY personal.

I felt unsafe, but I was prepared.  I’ve spent time thinking about exactly this type of situation. I texted a friend with basic whereabouts/time because it didn’t feel like it was at the ‘911’ level. I was watching for other people to help or turn to. I KNEW I could steer and ride my bike around/out/down and escape. And baring something really whacky or scary — I could jump off my bike and run up the mountain. Even in bike cleats. I know I can. (Thank you trail running).

So…  I took some deep breathes. Pedaled a bit. Decided I wan’t going to let him have MY workout that I’d been looking forward to all day. I didn’t own the ‘fat’ or ‘c*^$’ part of the yelling because I just didn’t want to. I didn’t cry.  I was wary and eyeballs open for the car, to be sure, if he decided to turn around I was going to be ready to react.  I never saw the car again for the record.

So I kept peddling.

Mostly to prove to myself that I wasn’t ‘fat’.  The difference this time around?  It wasn’t punishment peddling;  ‘you are fat, he said you’re fat, get moving fat ass.’  It was like ‘NO, you worked hard to be fit, you’ve waited all day for this ride. This is your bike, your body and peddling is what we do when we’re working up a sweat; now get down to rocking this workout like you know you can. And don’t let that asshat get in your head.’  I don’t know that that distinction will resonate with everyone. But it sure made my brain happy that I could choose NOT to own something and re-focuse pretty damn quickly on the task at hand which was trying to push hard up Skyliners.

I got to the turn around point, texted Spencer ‘I’m at the bridge (turn-around). I’m pissed. Might be one of the best climbs I’ve done.  F*&^%er called me fat.  That pisses me off.’


This is going to sound a little backwards, but I’m always a wee-bit grateful when these little reality bumps hit and I can see how much I’ve grown in my thinking and reactions. I don’t love being called names or feeling threatened.  Yet in the end it just kind of highlighted the right things, the healthier thinking, the better reactions in my life. I’d kept my wits, had thought through a safety plan, thought through how I wanted the words to affect me and then chose to just kept peddling.

And by the way….

I PR’ed up and down that road like I’ve never PR’ed before.  So — um… Thank you? Mr. Asshat for properly motivating me to ride that stretch as hard as I knew I was capable of riding it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Changes/comparisons.

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A new town, new apartment, new job….

These are such kick ass times to take inventory. I get caught up in comparing. Old life/new life. Fat Betsy/healthy Betsy. How can I not? It’s such a stark reminder.

I just moved to Bend, Oregon from the other side of the Cascades. Changed jobs after 14 years. Started a new professional adventure that – while only 4 days in – is something I can tell is going to be wildly fantastic and is aligning ALL the parts of my life. Moved from a house to an apartment. Working to build a new base and network of friends. ALL kinds of changes!  All good and all wanted, yet still big, scary and unsettling.

I worked hard to make the changes to my lifestyle a few years ago and I’ve worked just as hard to make these recent changes. I knew that a move could up-end a whole lot of those carefully structured ‘good habits’ if I wasn’t paying attention.  PERFECT time for old habits to slip back in, especially when loneliness lurks and self-confidence gets pushed around because of all the changes.

Even welcome changes can open the door to mental mischief if we’re not paying attention.

So I was hyper-alert to eating, timing, prioritizing those things that I needed to do in this new location to get right into the routine that keeps me healthy. I put a plan in place.  I made finding a pool, getting out on my bike, finding some trails my top priority.  Even more than the normal ‘adult’ stuff we’re supposed to focus on in a move, like address changes, unpacking boxes and finding a couch. I also forced at-home/cooked meals and not making brew-pubs/restaurants the focal point of gathering and meetings.

Here’s the list of ‘I can not believe this is my life!’ moments from the past 10 days:

I’ve officially used the shower at the gym more than I’ve used the one at my new apartment.  The locker room is super welcoming and friendly. I felt HORRIBLE intimidation going the first time, but it very quickly went away.  This pool (JUNIPER) is amazeballs. 🙂

I didn’t have to transfer prescriptions and find a pharmacy that takes Sharp’s containers. Or find a place at work to stash insulin and needles. Or explain why I’m ‘shooting up’ in the bathroom 2X a day. Or why I have finger-prick blood all over my desk and papers…

I am using my meetings with new colleagues to make them walking meetings. I can walk and talk at the same time. 🙂 I’ve looked for walking paths around my office. Not candy stores, bakeries, ice cream shops or fast food options.  That one BLEW my mind when about 3 days in on the new job, I realized I hadn’t brought lunch and didn’t even know where to go because I had NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION to food stuff.

I’m finding new coffee shops and places to eat and buy groceries and not having to battle the old food-related locations that were so much a part of my 400-pound life. Coffee for the sake of coffee/views/friendly barista/welcoming customers and work spaces. I don’t even know where the Taco Bell or McDonalds are. I’m going to keep it that way.

I found a gym. I have a new favorite trail. I’ve gotten some good bike time in. I haven’t even bothered to look for a new doctor because I only need well-patient care.

I’m meeting new people because I’m on hikes and group rides. Not because we’re in a diabetic counseling workshop.

There’s more. Lots more. Big and little. This just highlights for me how different life is now that I am focused on health. No longer having to worry about weight limits, fitting in a chair, or walking a block and being exhausted.

I LOVE Bend, my apartment, my new job, the sunshine!

I’m also still very much in love with what focusing on my health has given me each and every day since I started this lifestyle journey years ago.

Reminders and comparisons.

 

Ultras/Binge Eating Disorder

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I know this topic is likely to be too obscure for some folks. I’m really writing this for my ultra running friends. Hoping to start a conversation or get their help in making some connections or get your thinking on this topic…


For me, ultras and Binge Eating Disorder (BED) are inextricably and pretty wickedly connected. From the first ‘Holy shit, could this really be what’s happening?’ moment to the ‘Wow. Makes sense even though I detest the idea…’ moment it took me about 6 months to puzzle it out.

The information I can find about Eating Disorders are mainly about Anorexia or Bulimia. Like this great read from Trail Runner Magazine which covers a whole lot of valuable ground. Yet, I can not find anything about the ties between ultras/endurance and BED specifically. I can’t be the only one dealing with this. When you mesh the Google ‘percentage of U. S. population…’ stats of ultras at .5% and BED at 3%, statistically, I still don’t think I can be alone in this mess.

What forced the issue? An acute episode of BED rearing its ugly head along with a planned off-season/down-time from running. (My blog about it is here…)

Running was no longer there to hide behind.

It’s absence made things brutally and undeniably clear.

I was hiking one day and was gobsmacked with the realization that I was using running to hide/feed the BED. It was this nasty, covert, and destructive cycle that I couldn’t really see because I was so deeply in it. I wasn’t running from something or even too something.  I was running FOR something.  And not for something good or worthwhile or sustainable.

I stopped in my tracks.

Sat my butt down on the side of the trail and wrote some notes on my phone while a newt cruised by to see what I was doing.

This felt BIG.


Here’s what I wrote on my phone: “I love long runs and hate tapering. I run long (5+ hours) and I have ‘permission’ to eat anything and everything in any quantities I want.  When I taper, food gets restricted, weight creeps up. I run long, eat how I want and basically don’t get ‘caught’ bingeing because the huge volume of food I’m eating is ‘acceptable’. Tapering unleashes sneaky-ass behaviors that I thought I’d banished once and for all. Including lying about food.’

BED brain thinks about food as an acceptable/necessary/urgent replacement for something missing or to fill an emotional need.  This has NOTHING to do with hunger.  Not.a.single.thing. For me food can take the place of damn near every emotion on the spectrum.  I’m just as likely to eat that emotion in the form of trail mix as I am to actually feel and experience it. No amount of cajoling/shaming/lecturing can fix it.  I’ve often said ‘pizza was never mean to me…’   When you have THAT kind of relationship with food you need professional help.

Running gave me the ability to ignore/continue/not-fight with my BED all in the name of ‘recovery from ultras/training’.  I wasn’t running for the love of running.  I was very much running to manage my weight since I binge, but I don’t purge…  I was very much running to make the occasional huge volume of food I was eating not look out of whack.

I was running to hide my eating disorder.  Even when I didn’t know that what I had was an eating disorder.

Eff.

I was ready to face all of this and not ignore it or hide it anymore. Scared shitless, but ready. I needed help beyond caring and concerned friends. After muscling my way through the post-acute phase of intense blues / shame / depression / anxiety / hopelessness / panic that lasts for several days after a binging episode…

I got into therapy.


My brand new therapist immediately, like first 20 minutes of first session, said running was an issue. I immediately told her she was dead wrong. Not politely.  I was rude and defiant. Defiance is my go to when I’m ashamed and someone’s getting close to the reason for the shame or embarrassment.

I flat out denied the connection. I lost 200 pounds, reversed Type 2 Diabetes. Running had SAVED me. Who the hell was this woman to say running was part of the current problem? Was she not listening to me? ….

The therapist quickly said we could agree to disagree about the role of running in my eating disorder. We would focus on other things. {Smart ploy…} That lasted two sessions.  I began to honestly assess what I was doing and why. Journaling impulses, noting emotions and starting to make tentative connections between feelings and food.

Damn if she wasn’t right…

Writing everything down it was impossible to ignore the connection. Running sat smack in the middle of the BED pile. It was about 2 sessions in where I had to concede she had a point.

More than a point. Ultra running was the 500 pound gorilla in the room.

I hadn’t replaced food with running.  I had used running to hide, enable and deny my BED. A crucial distinction. I hadn’t let go of ONE thing and grasped tightly onto something new.  I hadn’t given up anything at all.  I’d just masked what in the hell was really going on.

I think the college students I worked with would call that a HOT MESS.

Ultras and BED are married up in epically dysfunctional fashion for me.

As long as I ran long, I could pretend that eating 3,000+ calories at a single time after a long run was ‘normal recovery’.  Eating whatever I wanted for the week of a 60+ mile week was acceptable. I basically kept signing up for races to make sure I still had high mileage weeks and really full training schedules so that my bingeing wouldn’t be detected or life would seem ‘normal’ because of the training load and my food intake.

Eff.

So what now?  Great question. I have some tentative answers.

  • Awareness is a huge part of the battle. Talking about it. Knowing that my ultra friends support me when I get ‘wonky’ about food or food discussions.
  • Not running ultras or being lured in by Ultrasignup for a while is my main strategy for staying focused.  I needed a break from running.  I’m using this downtime in all the best ways possible. And NOT viewing it as punishment.
  • Rebuilding my running from the ground up when the time comes to hit the trails again. Slowly, carefully. Knowing food is fuel and that’s the only place it will hold in my running.

I didn’t take on this whole lifestyle change to give up when things got hard.

I will be running again, soon, for all the right reasons.

 

 

 

Bend {don’t break}

I am moving to Bend Oregon.

Like – I’m writing this blog sitting in the middle of an empty living room, in a camp chair, surrounded by boxes.

Big changes.

Feels about as big as losing 200 pounds. Maybe not as big as reversing Type 2 diabetes.  Damn close. Seriously.

Actually, this change is because of and driven by those other changes.

It was time for a fresh start, a new beginning. A time to align all the parts of my life. Time to really listen to my heart and not let logic or fear or ‘adulting’ crowd out her voice.

Late last summer I went to Boulder for the Run Mindful retreat. I went to learn how to be mindful and use meditation and I thought it was an interesting idea to explore while running.  My mind is a freaking hamster wheel and often I just open my mouth and let whatever’s rolling around in my head flop right out of my mouth.  I’ve been working for years on changing that. Being more intentional and thoughtful and learning to quiet my brain.  This retreat included mountain running, time with the famous-ultrarunner/equally-phenomenal-dad/mom-humans; Timothy and Krista Olsen, I got to see my friend Matt, a chance to meet other runners wanting to focus on being mindful.  My kind of vacation!

It was incredible.

I didn’t realize at the time it was launching an awakening or a mid-life crisis.  Whatever. Same thing, different names. 🙂 I was standing on the edge of a change in a fog.

This retreat cleared the fog.

Those days in the mountains, at high altitude, spectacular food from Real Athlete Diets, no cell phone, running, restful sleep and meditation, intentional conversations…

I started to get my mind calm enough to really hear the small quiet voice in my heart that said ‘I {you} need something different than this life you’ve carefully created. I know you’re scared shitless.  Hear me out…  This could be amazing if you’re brave enough.’

I heard it in snippets at first, and was in just the right setting and moment and place that I finally heard her whisper. I listened. I didn’t get it at first. But I didn’t refuse it. I didn’t create noise to drown out the seemingly illogical thinking like I normally would.

I kept quieting my mind and listening…

I wanted to move to an endurance community where I could run and play and meet other people who cared deeply about the land we were choosing and using as our playgrounds.  I was ready for a new work challenge – with a leadership shift in my college at Oregon State, the timing was oddly perfect for me to slip away after 14 years.  I wanted to live in a place that wasn’t a social-desert; I want a boyfriend. I wanted to change my professional work and dig in/lean-in on work that mattered for our future.

I felt like my heart was going to explode.  She was off and running (pun intended) and instead of shutting her up, ignoring her for the logical ‘adult’ reasons like a job/mortgage and stability….

I followed.

This experience has been like the technical single-track with sharp drop-offs and switchbacks that scare me to death and that I have grown to adore.  The ‘how’ changed several times. The ‘true North’ never did. I was able to get clear with each twist and turn and rattlesnake in the path. From ‘I want to live in Boulder’ to ‘I want to be in a mountain town, with a strong endurance community.’ From ‘Whatever job I’m qualified for’ to ‘What work would matter deeply no matter how hard I have to work to learn how to do it?’

It’s been a wild, sloppy, ‘bonus miles’ kind of trail race. My endurance training has served me well. 🙂

There have been candid/scary moments of ‘WHAT THE FUCK AM I THINKING?’ I’d be lying to deny those moments. And a few folks would call me out for not acknowledging those human, normal, bravery-checks that were tears or frantic calls for reassurance.

Yet, deep down I knew I was doing the right thing even while the details or moments would have everyone around me convinced (uh — and me, I was semi-convinced a time or two..!) this was just crazy…

My house is for sale.  I’ve worked my last day at OSU.  I start a new job with the Deschutes Land Trust in early June.  I’ve down-sized my belonging to basics and a few tubs of sappy-sentimental-crappola that I simply couldn’t part with.  The moving truck is rented, a rental lease is signed…

This is finally happening.

This is so much more than a move ‘over the hill’.

This for me is more like a movement.  I’m going to Bend, not break.

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Nemo and Dory. {Just keep swimming…}

IMG_1435Nemo and especially Dory,  have become new role models for me.

I feel like I’m a lot like Dory.  Optimistic, helpful, and while she suffers from short-term memory loss; I’m simply easily distracted.

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But the real reason I love this pair?

I’m learning how to swim. Learning how to be in public in a swimsuit, learning a new skill, learning to love it.

Learning a ton of new stuff.

I knew how to dog paddle and tread water.  I could swim to save my life. I can do a handstand and somersault in shallow water to show off for my nephews. That’s it.

But using swimming for exercise?  Uh… No.

I took lessons for a full year a few years back.  At the very beginning of this health journey I wanted to do a Ironman.  And then I realized — you have to be able to swim. And if I really wanted to do a triathlon, I better figure out the water part.

So I buckled down and got some ‘adult learner’ swim lesson with a very patient swim coach named Troy.  He worked hard to help me get over my fears and teach me the basics.  I’m asthmatic and claustrophobic.  Putting my face in the water and then trying to breathe — well…  It took some work.  A lot of work.  A lot of blowing bubbles and coating me off the side of the pool.  Secretly, my commitment to working with Troy was also my commitment to getting over my anxiety at being in public in a bathing suit. It was the first step to trying to get ready for a triathlon — which I wanted to do from the very beginning of my health journey.  But it was ALWAYS the swimming that stopped me.

So I found a coach to give up on the lame excuses and see if I could make it happen…  Troy was working into a whole lot of baggage some of which he didn’t even know about.  And he never batted an eye.   Just helped me learn and get comfortable with the water.

He had to stop coaching me when he went to PT school. I was mostly focused on ultra’s, so it was easy to abandon swimming.  The whole exercise/cardio/water-in-the-face/breathing thing was something I just couldn’t seem, to figure out on my own.   Resigned to the fact that triathlons were just not going to be my sport – I bailed out of the pool.

I can now — two years later — appreciate how well Troy set me up for the time when I would want to actively re-engage in learning on my own. (Thank you Troy.)

I want some cross-training in my world.  I really do want to do a triathlon. It was TIME to add something else in the activity mix.  I got back in the pool in March mostly because of an injured Achilles.  It swiftly became a ‘get to’ not a ‘have to’  And the ‘get to’ led to a HUGE attitude shift.  Instead of ‘pools are where injured runners skulk and recover’ to ‘can I get better, figure out the breathing and use swimming like I use running?’

Yes I can.

I’m loving being in the ‘newbie’ stage of a new sport.

I’ve learned a few things in the past few weeks that might be helpful for other newbies:

  • Chlorine makes everything smell. All the time. No escape. I’m about ready to shave my head.
  • When elastic gives out in your bathing suit…  It goes instantly. Poof.  I had a near miss with a boob almost flopping out of an armhole mid-stroke.
  • Goggles are blinders. They fog, they slip… Spit, baby shampoo — I can’t seem to battle the fog no matter the suggested hack.
  • A cold, damp swimsuit early in the morning is evil.
  • Swim caps don’t do a damn thing except rip hair out.
  • When someone in your lane accidentally physically connects with you during lap swim — even lightly – you instantly know you are being attacked by a shark.

I can swim a mile. 🙂  And deeply enjoy it.  I have to stop at the end of the pool on most lengths, but it’s getting better weekly.  I’m getting stronger.

I’m driven to get more competent with this skill. By the end of summer I want to be able to swim a meditative, mile, non-stop.

Thank goodness for patient friends who send you videos, teach you terminology, give you on-the-deck, goofy/funny, dry-land re-enactments of what you should be doing in the water.  Grateful for the friends who spend time in the water with me and are understanding of my new desire to learn this skill.

What new skill are you learning?!  Please share. 🙂  I want to hear the good, the bad, the funny. 🙂

 

ISO: Running mojo…

08_14_16_trrt_317-zf-7509-90007-1-001-012In search of mojo.

My running mojo specifically.

I’ve got other kinds of joy, inspiration, drive. In spades. Life is good. 🙂 But my running mojo seems to be on an extended hiatus…

I’m missing her.

Time to admit that I am {temporarily} burned out on running.


I’m kind of an all-or-nothing girl at times. My history would indicate a preferred path of eradication, not moderation. 🙂 And this time I wanted to do things different. I want to find some solid, middle ground around being active even if it doesn’t include running.

You know — maybe be ‘adult’ about it and find a non-running path for now and not over-react. 🙂

And since I want to be that sassy, feisty, fit 90-year-old who still runs and whoops your ass in the gym, this really does take a LONG-range view, not a knee-jerk reaction or sinking into apathy.

The thought of setting running to the side scares me shitless because at my core there is something I deeply love about it. The beautiful reality is that I truly do love it enough to NOT handle it carelessly like I might other things at other times in my life.

I needed a plan.

My current ‘healthy path’ plan…? Get fit and re-energized around being active. Period.  I do not have a single race booked for the year and I do not plan to run an ultra this year. I do plan to swim and bike and lift weights and go to social/cardio classes with friends and run some shorter/fun races/adventures. Oh – maybe do some snowshoeing or rock climbing or hiking or skiing.

ALL THE THINGS. 🙂

I want to be in good enough shape to just go and do ALL the things at any time.

Those are my goals this year.

They feel damn good and exciting.


I know exactly when and where my mojo went missing. Fall of 2016 I ran Mountain Lakes 100. 18 months ago. Training for a 100 miler is intense to say the least. I finished the race fueled by solid training and a dose of stark {and appropriate} terror. I now know I am strong and brave and capable of some pretty fantastic and amazing things.

Eighteen months later I FINALLY realize that Mountain Lakes 100 gave me this incredible gift of believing in myself.

But the event that gave me incredible confidence, also kind of broke my running mojo.

Fair trade off if you ask me.

MONTHS of hindsight needed to arrive at this conclusion. But honestly? Temporarily busted mojo VS. BELIEVE, and know in your heart, you can do unimaginable things?

Fair trade off.

A trade off I will make again, again and again.img_4329-jpg


I spent the last year attempting two 100 mile races. (Zion and Rio Del Lago) Was not able to finish either. Dropped out at 75 and 76 miles. We can talk about training, weather, fueling, terrain, mental state, race conditions – even the reasons I was facing when I made those decisions such as blistered feet/asthma/cramping… These are huge beasts of a race. A ton of things can go wrong. Correction. A ton of things will go wrong. Your training is about learning what to do and how to adapt when those things go wrong.

All things considered I believe that the main reason I did not finish either race in 2017 came down to one simple fact: My heart was not in it.  My mojo was gone.

People who run these huge distances will tell you that there is a whole bunch of training, some luck and a slew of other factors that account for being able to accomplish these races. Some of the more mature and experienced ultrarunners will also tell you, when you dig deeper in conversation with them, that the magic ingredient they have witnessed time and again is; heart.  Not legs, not training, not shoes or gear. All important.  But often the magic is heart, desire, deep longing to get out there and test themselves at any cost.

My heart just wasn’t in it this past year.

I spent all of last year pretending REALLY HARD and trying to blindly convince myself that if I simply hung in/put in the training/went through the motions – my mojo would return. My heart would be in it.  I never gave up on trying to chase these suckers down. I stayed in the routine of activity. I ran my workouts. I worked on fitness and mental toughness. I set and chased goals. I learned a ton. Even though my heart wasn’t entirely in it I stayed with the habit.

I never gave up.

I just never gave it my whole heart.

I own and understand that distinction.


Basically since last November I finally realized my running mojo had taken a hike. Not sad. Not scared. Just curious when it might come back. Can I do something to get it back? What to do until it comes back.

I remember early in this fitness journey. I was talking to Spencer and he was brand-new as my running coach. I remember him asking me what I was so afraid of. I didn’t realize I was telegraphing fear, was a little taken aback at being directly called out. I eventually told him I was afraid I would wake-up one morning and my love and desire for running would be gone. That would be DISASTER.  It would mean I would instantly, certainly, gain all of the weight back and become type 2 diabetic again. Over night. Catastrophically. Of everything that could happen that’s what I was most afraid of.

I was so busy all these years to keep it in a careful, tight choke-hold so it couldn’t wander away, I didn’t realize I was killing it…

One morning last Fall I woke up and realized she really was good and gone. Until last week, I kept going through the motions of lacing up my shoes and going for a run, hoping she would re-appear. No luck so far. But I slowly realized my desire to stay firmly planted in my new healthy life was alive and kicking and didn’t care that running was out of the mix for the moment.  I wanted to move, stay connected and keep getting fit and strong; even if I wasn’t running.  So that very thing I feared deeply happened.  But the story I told myself about how that fear would result in total disaster did NOT happen.

Fascinating.  Liberating.  A lesson to remember about the stories we tell ourselves. About the stories we choose to believe.

So I’m not going to chase my mojo down right now. I’ll let my running mojo return when she’s good and ready. I’ll wait patiently, filling my time with a ton of other activities, learning some new skills (swimming!) and testing new boundaries.

And I’ll welcome her back with open arms.

And this time around I won’t put her in a stranglehold.

It’ll be a partnership and a friendship and the weight of my world won’t be solely on her shoulders.

What do you do when your mojo takes a hike?

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Crying when I see an ambulance…

I’m driving south on Interstate 5 and an ambulance, with lights flashing, in the fast lane, is headed north on Interstate 5.

I watch it come closer and then start to cry. Fighting the tears. Biting my lip. Willing the tears to just.go.away.

Then I cry.

Ugly cry.

It happens the exact same way EVERY SINGLE TIME.

My mom’s been gone 8 years and I still have this gut-grief reaction to seeing an ambulance. It always startles me for a moment.  Then…. bear with me… it oddly comforts me.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I continue to get more comfortable with the fact that grief never leaves me.  And I finally understand that deep grief comes with deep love…

I’ll try to explain what I mean…

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We live in a small(ish) valley. The major hospitals are North of us, in Portland. An ambulance driving north with lights on means someone from a smaller hospital in an outlying community in our valley is critically ill (not lifeflight-ill, but small-hospital-can’t-handle-the-complexity-ill) and headed for help.

My mom was in one of those ambulances in January about 8 years ago.

And it was the last time she was ever on Interstate 5.  It was a one-way ride. None of us ever entertained the thought that she would never see home again.

I remember when our Corvallis hospital made the decision to transfer her to Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and there was a scurry to get her moved.

My mom had a MRSA infection in her blood. She needed infectious disease management for a really complicated health-profile. She was super sick and needed more help than our local hospital could give her.

They loaded her in an ambulance, paramedics reassuring us they would take the very best care of her, closed the doors and took off with lights flashing headed for OHSU about 90 minutes away.

I remember my dad driving behind the ambulance, upset because he couldn’t ride with her, trying to stay close to the ambulance. I was following in another car. I could see glimpses of the paramedic in the back with her and, true to his promise, you could see him holding her hand and talking with her the entire trip. Comforting her. I was driving and trying to fill in details via the phone with my sister, asking the neighbors to take care of the farm, calling to let work know I’d be out.  I was hoping my dad was paying better attention to the road/rules/drivers than I feared he was…

I followed that ambulance terrified for my mom, heartbroken for my dad and HOPEFUL we were headed to the help that would figure out how to save my mom.

It never occurred to me how the story would end. I was clinging blindly to hope.

OHSU was incredible. They tried everything, experimented with brand new drugs, never gave false-hope, FOUGHT as hard and smart as they could.

MRSA won.

My mom died 3-10-10.

Driving back down Interstate 5 that day was as traumatic as it had been going up behind that ambulance. This time my sister and I were driving away mom-less daughters, with a dad so grief stricken he was compliant and numb and totally lost.

Our world was totally, inexplicably, irrevocably changed.

Forever changed.

And I would begin to understand grief.

And over the next few years I would come to view grieving in a whole different light. Not shameful, with a time limit or mandatory sadness that would disappear.  I began to view grief as a permanent part of who I was, expanding my empathy and teaching me critical lessons about the honor of being able to lean-in and embrace someone else with a breaking/broken heart.

Where at first my grief was raw and dangerous and soul-deep hurt…  Like…  steal your breathe and literally throw you to your knees. Now, years later, grief is this ever-present reminder that while something good is gone and life is different; I can remember that it’s only because I had something so good, that this sadness actually has grown, for me, into an odd form of comfort and reassurance that I was blessed with a deep love.

Kind of like ‘Hello. Yes, grief, I see you; you’re kind of hard to miss. Yes, grief, of course I remember my mom is dead and gone.  I don’t forget. Not for a single moment, except sometimes when I first wake-up; but I always remember within seconds… I promise. But yeah, thank you for reminding me how special she was and how lucky I was to have had her in my life…’

‘Grief is just love with no place to go.’ 

Someone who has just lost someone — will not understand any of this. They’ll be bewildered and possibly offended. I sure as hell would NOT have understood that I would come to a place where I could accept that my mom was gone and not be a puddle of incoherent tears. But if you’re a few years out from a loss, you might accept that grief is actually a permanent part of who you are now and you can begin to embrace it as proof of love…

You might understand why I cry when I see an ambulance.

As I’m driving this weekend watching the ambulance approach on the other side of the interstate, I’m automatically scanning the other cars behind the ambulance wondering if there are loved ones frantically following the ambulance.

I send up a quick thought of healing and peace and prayers for the person, their family and most importantly for the ambulance crew trying to transport, comfort and save this person… I always wonder if this ambulance contains one of the lucky ones and they will get to drive their loved one back home.

And then I cry. I cry because my mom is dead. And I miss her every day. And I’m a better women for having had her, her abundant and persistent lessons in grace and love and kindness at the center of my life.  I cry because she shouldn’t have died so young.  I cry because she would be so proud of me and what I’m trying to do with my life and I want her to be here and be in the middle of it all and know my friends.

I cry.

I don’t rationalize or hold back or even get embarrassed when other drivers passing by notice the streaming tears.  I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about my grief.  Hell.  If they had known my mom — they’d be crying too. I sob and choke and cry my grief almost as rawly as the day she died…

Eventually the tears slow and dry.

Gratefulness emerges and fights for my attention.

I am flooded with reminders of how lucky I am to have been given someone I would miss so much. How lucky I am to have had this woman as my mom.  Of ALL the women in the world — I had her for 42 years.

And grief just kind of crawls back in the passenger seat, waiting for the next ambulance.

I keep driving.

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