Time Ticking By and Life Rafts in the Flood

June 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

We are managing more normal things. Laundry. Cooking. Studying is back in the rotation. I’m trying to be better about responding to texts & answering the phone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert McNamara’s interviews in the documentary, “The Fog of War.” The truth is that we don’t really know ‘how we are.’ Surely in a year we can look back and know more about what was going on in these moments when we can’t see an inch in front of us because of the fog, we’re simply still ‘in it’ too deep.

Lately what rolls around in the deepest places of us is a thankfulness. A gratitude that’s deeper than words or emotions for those who have been willing to step into the trenches and walk through the darkness with us.

Grief is an uncomfortable, difficult, dark, place. It is ugly, painful, and overwhelming. It is all consuming.

There are no answers or easy fixes. There is no feeling better at the end of the day.

It is not a place where you get to be selfish or surface, or bullshit around things. To enter into someone’s grief is to let go of yourself – we know because we feel so consumed by our sadness that any capacity we once had to pretend or keep up appearances for the sake of making others feel ok about themselves is gone. All of our energy is required for survival.

I feel like so many of you have sent life rafts or been beacons of light in the foggy nights – you have come into the darkness at risk to your own emotional safety – without thought of yourselves. For that there will never be adequate words to thank you for the courage to step into the muck and mire with us; To say again and again to us – this sucks, it just sucks. To call and call again to say that you love us – just to make sure that we know and don’t forget – to assure us that no matter how we FEEL we are not alone. You have been lighthouses beckoning us toward true north, no matter how confusing the fog is to our internal navigation.

I can say without a doubt that one month ago was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Physically it was harder than any marathon I have ever run, and emotionally it makes the previous 37 years of my life look like Central Park. But we’re here, we’re still breathing, we’re getting up, we’re ‘showering’, we’re holding on to the life rafts that have been thrown to us. One breath, one moment at a time we will make our way.

The magnitude of our loss feels more acute today than it did May 2 when maybe we didn’t fully grasp it, and it feels scary to think of what that means for when the shock wears off and this all really settles in, what’s really happened, but somehow a month has passed. When we didn’t think we could survive one day – it’s been one month. One hard, horrible month.

When we were in California, driving along the coast, we listened to this song – held hands – and cried. I am reminded of it again today. It is more real today as I think of Justin and how we’ve clung to each other for life – and become more united than we’ve ever been. I think of those of you that have jumped in with us to this darkness. We’ll get to daybreak eventually, thanks for being life rafts or sending salad(s) bowls, buckets, and basins to help us bail out of the flood.

Excerpts from Snow Patrol, “The Lightening Strike”

These accidents of faith and nature
They tend to stick in the spokes of you
But every now and then the trend bucks
And you’re repaired by more than glue…

Slowly the day breaks apart in our hands
And soft hallelujahs flow in from the church
The one on the corner you said frightened you
It was too dark and too large to find your soul in…

It got cold and then dark so suddenly and rained
It rained so hard the two of us were the only thing
That we could see for miles and miles

And in the middle of the flood I felt my worth
When you held onto me like I was your little life raft
Please know that you were mine as well
Drops of water hit the ground like God’s own tears
And spread out into shapes like
Salad bowls and basins and buckets for bailing out the flood

Boston

April 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

As many of you know, I’ve run the Boston Marathon before. You can read about it here.

When I decided I was in this year it was right before we found out about Wright, and one of the first questions we asked the Dr – can I still run the marathon???

Haley and I had recently finished a 10 mile race, I had not put together why the 10 mile run I had run a week before with TNT here in NYC was so rough – perhaps because I was almost two months pregnant and could barely breathe? Things you see in hindsight.

I continued to train under the Drs instructions, keeping my heart rate at a very specific target, trying to manage hunger, and with a major family emergency occurring right in the middle of it all.

I flew back into New York just in time for our 12/13 week check up where the do the testing for any major signs of chromosomal abnormalities. As most of you know, the appointment was stopped short – and within a few days we were given the diagnosis of Trisomy 13, which in our baby’s case, is fatal.

While I am still pregnant, we don’t actually know for sure if Wright is living. I will say that the last three weeks of my life have hardly been devoted to hitting the running trail. I could offer the fact that I have had both the flu and the stomach flu, but the truth is, my heart has been too heavy to run.

I still believe in why I signed up to run Boston. This is a big year. Those I began running in memory and honor of mean more to me than they ever have, but I am not sure if I will make it to the start or not. We will take it one step at a time this weekend. There are moments in life where it is important to finish, and there are moments in life where it is important to know when to quit. We love to talk about finishing, victories, and the great accomplishment. It is much more difficult to talk about the work done in the journey that is more important than the shiny medal at the end.

For so many of my friends that were stopped short last year, THIS IS NOT THE YEAR TO QUIT, this is the year to finish.

For so many running because they were on the sidelines and are survivors of the events of last year, THIS IS NOT THE YEAR TO QUIT.

For me, this is not my year to finish.

It has become clear that is is not physically in my best interest, and I have a lot of fear about what might happen on the course because of Wright’s condition. The marathon is now days before a critical appointment for us regarding the baby.

The marathon will be among one of the most emotional in history, and we are simply not in a place to extend ourselves further emotionally. It is not my year to finish.

So what’s our plan? Our plan is to raise as much money possible in honor of the fighters, the survivors, and the taken that I’ve talked about again and again in the previous posts. The two young families, the little girls battling cancer, my friend’s father who’s overcome – but now in honor of his brother who is battling, in memory of my dear friend’s aunt, the incredible names that you all have sent me that I will place on ribbons and wear on race day – whether I run to Wellesley or simply cheer from the community center. The point is that the battle against cancer goes on with or without my feet on the ground.

This year, our battle is simply different, it has been an unexpected battle for our little family, and one we wouldn’t trade for the world.

As we prepare to say goodbye to our unborn daughter, we feel a greater empathy and compassion for those who battle daily on behalf of those they love with this disease.

On the anniversary of last year’s race would you consider joining us in fighting cancer one step, one dollar at time, and contributing to my fundraising effort for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with Team in Training Boston?

http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston14/stephjkeogh

 

Waiting to Lose a Baby

March 25, 2014 § 3 Comments

There is a form of meditation in Buddhism which calls one to meditate on reality. One man meditated on skeletons, a woman on the imperfection of her body. Lately I’ve been ‘meditating’ on when and how my baby will die.

The way that you do that is to google late term miscarriage, induced labor of a stillborn, Trisomy 13. I want to know WHEN is it likely to happen, HOW is it likely to happen, or will I just have to wait and not know if Wright is alive or not – just keep going into sonograms for months and wait to see if she’s still wiggling and if her heart’s still beating.

I have a stroller, in a box, in my front hallway. I can’t bear to do anything with it, because for now, Wright is alive.

I make plans, a wedding this weekend, where I grasp for clothes I don’t feel fat in that don’t give away that I am pregnant because I can’t bear to tell another person that I am 4 months pregnant with a baby that’s going to die. As I’ve said before, people don’t like to hear about babies dying. They also don’t like women as far a long as I am to lose babies. You know, not for me, but because it makes them uncomfortable. “Could it happen to me???” Only if you are one of the lucky 1%. Do I need to worry about miscarrying while I am gone? What would I do? Should I just stay home? What about the marathon? If I was pregnant with a baby that was going to live, then I would be A OK to run, but I question whether I should – will I feel guilty if something happens while I am running or after. If I lose Wright before the marathon will my body be OK to run? I guess I can just sit in my apartment and do nothing and wait for her to die.

This is my reality. Every day. I wake up, sleep, and dream waiting for the most dreaded thing to happen. Justin and I try to make plans, and consider the best options… All we know to do is keep living as if every tiny little girl I see isn’t going to make me cry. We try to keep moving as if our hearts aren’t breaking, as if we have any idea of how to deal with this. Practically. Emotionally. Physically. I don’t know whether to love my changing shape, or hate it for what it won’t give me.

My ‘meditations’ on reality often make me sick. They make me cry. Sometimes, Justin and I just hold hands and cry.

Waiting to lose a baby as others have theirs can make you crazy. The incredible joy I feel for our dear friends that just had twins, the excitement I feel for my dear friend that is literally one week or so behind me… It is real and authentic. I am still pregnant, it just won’t end the same way for me. Even if I make it to 5 months… They won’t let me carry full term, because the edema on Wright’s brain is fatal. So we just ‘patiently’ wait for her life to end.

Mostly people want to know when we will try again. Ummm, I’m still pregnant.

I’m pregnant, but no one has called or emailed to celebrate with us. People don’t know what to say about a dying baby. So they say nothing. Silence is the form of cruelty that leads to loneliness. On the other hand, we really can hardly understand the people that feel compelled to share how their healthy children remind them of our misfortune. Thanks? Maybe silence is better.

I meditate on reality, because so many around me don’t. This is uncomfortable. It’s heartbreaking. There is little comfort in losing a child this way. It is painful physically and emotionally. In a world where people love to shove silver linings down the throat of your tragedy the only silver lining to be offered is the next child. As if a simple, “I’m so sorry”, “Thinking of you”, “Crying with you” weren’t enough. We are part of the 1% of the population that will lose their baby to Trisomy 13, we expect that waiting to lose Wright will be lonely business…

I write about my meditation on reality to offer some perspective to those on the outside looking in, for those of you who might encounter a situation in the future where you don’t know what to say and are tempted to offer those hurting your silence…

We celebrate the gift that Wright is. Silver linings or none.

We muddle through the bad news, followed by worse news, as we wait for the worst news.

We cry for our friends whose experiences have been similar. Multiple miscarriages, children with chromosomal abnormalities, still born children, children lost to other horrific tragedies… We are not victims of cruel fate, we are just people, and bad things happen to everyone without bias. We have said it before, and we will say it again, we don’t think our tragedy is special. The difference is that this is in fact our tragedy, and like any loss or tragedy, it is felt uniquely by those that experience it personally. Just like I would not claim to know how you feel about your loss, I do not think someone else can claim to know how I feel about mine. That doesn’t make it greater or more significant, it is just reality.

So we continue, waiting to lose Wright. We move through the days, with lumps in our throats, wondering if it will be today. We muddle through having to explain to someone we are pregnant with a baby that will die. We brace ourselves for their stories of hope, their friends who had a baby with Downs or Tri18, their resignation upon realizing there is no hope for Wright that most ‘first pregnancies end in miscarriage…’ We remind ourselves that we have to keep living, because it is not us that is dying…

I do not write to make you uncomfortable, but aware. Death and life are not new in this world – nor is our aversion to recognizing that death is as real as life. We will lose Wright. I may be 6 months pregnant when we do… Then we will have to figure out what to do. If we do nothing, it is as if she were not here, she were not a part of our lives all these months, as if we did not know her, her face, her heartbeat, her form that has become as familiar as my own hand. It will be as if we did not think of her every minute of the day that she was with us. If we decide to do something, we will certainly be met with the opinions of the gallery that feel compelled to share about the ‘real’ loss of a child. One that lived for hours or days after birth… We ‘shouldn’t act like we lost a child we had known.’ I think you can speculate what we have to say to people who feel the need to share such opinions…

The reality is that we are all on Wright’s same road to eventual death. Hers will likely come before she breaths a breath of oxygen. Her tiny body, her little heart, and her brief life have already changed us irrevocably and I would not give one day of it back, not one minute. Perhaps that’s why against all logic and reason I want every moment more that we can have, even knowing the end.

 

Running for Comfort.

March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

IMG_8274As I’ve said before, I won’t be running Boston this year. I’ll be jog walking it. I may or may not still be pregnant, either way, my body will not be in its normal form. No less, Boston has been a silver lining for me. Being able to have a bigger purpose, something to force me out of the house for jalks everyday, and the reminder of how great the suffering is of those impacted by this disease compel me to keep going. My goal is to start, my hope is to finish. They’ll give me eight hours, I may need all of them.

I have run through the best and most difficult times of my life. And though I have no energy to do anything, I have been forcing myself to exercise, as lame as that exercise is. I haven’t been doing 20 mile training runs, instead my last real run was before I knew I was pregnant, and my jalks are so slow that it’s hard to put in the miles. But my body knows marathons. It knows the impossible, and I am thankful to have Wright with me on this journey.

I am including a post I made on social media, and asking again, if you would consider sharing my cause. A dear teammate asked her family to pass along her fundraising request and had an unbelievable response. She encouraged those of us who are fundraising to boldly beg for people to pass along the word, to re-post, to send their own email – whatever works. I would LOVE if you would consider sharing my fundraising page in whatever way you feel comfortable. As I have said before, my minimum goal is $4000, but it is my dream to surpass that – which I can only do with your help.

Here’s my social media post, and the link to my page:

The Boston Marathon is less than a month away, and my goal of exceeding my fundraising goal is being hindered by having not yet met my initial fundraising goal. Would you consider reading why I am running? Also, inspired by my friend and co-runner Caitlyn Bintz, I ask you to consider sharing this link on your page, sending the post in an email, or otherwise sharing in any way you choose. I’d love for you to be a part of my team. If you’re not up for giving, but cancer has impacted you in some way, I will run again this year with the names of the fighters, survivors and the taken that you send me. In 2012 I ran with over 100 names – the impact of those names on those running around me was profound, and I hope to remind people again this year of how urgent the race to beat cancer is.
http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston14/stephjkeogh

Hard Reality

September 23, 2013 § 1 Comment

IMG_5394

hungry t-rex

In one of these pictures I am preparing to struggle to run 6.2 miles – in the other, taken a little over a year before, I am struggling to run 26.2 miles. This is a hard reality. One of my own making.

Haley and I were talking yesterday, as we jogged, about choices and how much being aware of your reality impacts your decisions.

One of the things that we were acknowledging is that as we have gotten older we have realized that it is very important to own your decisions, your emotions, and the consequences of your choices – intended and unintended. This is not an easy thing.

I find this to be the most difficult in friendships; as I have alluded to, the decision to go back to school greatly narrowed our friendship circle. Our capacity during this stage of life to maintain relationships that did not support our commitment to this process was small. As well, we received VERY wise council that it was no longer healthy to maintain relationships that did not have some sort of sustaining and abiding reciprocity about them. I am a homebody that does not like to talk on the phone. Justin is an extrovert that does not like to talk on the phone, and many of our life long friends live in other cities – so this is a bit of a challenge to US – WE ARE OFTEN THE OFFENDERS HERE! ON THE OTHER HAND, we also are among the last in our crew without children, the least tethered of our family, I am generally considered the one of boundless capacity, Justin is generous to a fault… We often felt people had very high expectations for us to do the work “because we had no other commitments.”

Somewhere around the spring that I was applying to ten schools, operating a small business, and taking 16 hours, we simply had to learn to use the word no. Especially in friendships that were requiring more from us emotionally than they were contributing. It seemed that many friendships began to fade away, including among our own families.

We understand that in life, there are periods where friendships, relationships, JOBS, situations will not be perfectly balanced – this is to be expected. The hard reality is when this becomes the norm. When you are the perpetual  ‘bender’, ‘giver’, ‘swallower of offenses’, ‘communicator’, ‘acceptor of blame’, ‘traveler’,  ‘initiator’, ‘accommodator.’   ***(A good litmus for this is to ask yourself if you are more familiar with the other person’s life, than they are with yours – practically/emotionally/spiritually. )

Sometimes these things can be communicated through. As well,  I have many friendships that ebb and flow. On the other hand, there are some friendships that I have to step back from because  it isn’t working. There is no blame.

Unless…

Confession.

I want people to like me, to approve of me, to like what I say, and more than anything to be understood. All. The. People.

The hard reality –  This is never going to happen.

I have kept relationships in my life, despite knowing the relationship was unhealthy, and kept giving in a one way friendship – knowing the person wasn’t into it – in a vain attempt to win approval. When I am unable to do so, I then feel anger and frustration at that person – even though my motive in the situation was self-serving. Is there blame in this situation? Absolutely. It’s mine.

The harder reality? You really don’t need friends that don’t enjoy you from a place of love and instinctive advocacy. The exceptions are few and far between.

I made a choice to train for one of the most difficult marathons out there. I chose to do it with people who believed that I could do it instead of running on my own with my own doubts and fears about my limitations. I made a choice to train with a team of people who are world renowned for their positivity, commitment to one another, long term goals, and to the success of their individual runners. I finished the race, not because of my own skill, but because of the team I trained with, and ran on one of the hottest race days in history.

On Heartbreak Hill when the heat index is 111 degrees, you want to know that your team is capable of running you home. If they’ve never been on your course, no matter how much they believe in you, it’s not going to happen. And that’s the hard reality.

Life is too short to not be surrounded by people who genuinely love you. Choose well.

Dummies Guide to Mountains

September 19, 2013 § 3 Comments

Today, over at Lark and Bloom there was a post about faith and moving mountains.

No matter who you are, in this life we are faced with insurmountable tasks.

These are the lines that Liz wrote that struck me, “Moving mountains isn’t easy. In fact, I don’t really know how it works…”

I am a firm believer that my way is not your way… However, I do think that we inspire one another with our stories.

I don’t know about moving mountains, but I know a little something about climbing them.

I’ve run a few marathons, lived in some crazy places, and now, at 36 I am earning a degree in political science – at what some seem to think is a respectable university – after failing out of a party school.

I spend a lot of time reading Harvard Business Review, listening to leadership talks, reading the stats on the most successful people… In the end, the people that accomplish the task are the people that do the work.

It’s easy to glamorize the BIG achievers, the ‘success’ stories. To be frank, that drives me batty. What makes the CEO of Yahoo more special than a union plumber? For that matter, what makes her more special than a career taxi driver or someone teaches kindergarten without taking a day of sick leave for 30 years? They each worked hard every day of their lives – it is the value that society assigns to their jobs that differentiates how we view their ‘success.’

How did I run a marathon? I started by training for a two mile run. I ran those two miles consistently and then built on them. It took me six months, and then I could run 26.

How did I move overseas? I started by taking one week trips. Then I took three week trips. Then I took longer trips. Eventually I realized I could make it for longer than I thought in an unfamiliar environment.

How do I make it in school? Sometimes I don’t think I am going to. Some days I feel like I am going to drown under the pressure, the expectation, the loneliness. I could have gone to a school that did not require that I give up my social life, most communication with the outside world, extra sleep, the ability to think about things that are enjoyable, and a sundry of other things that I will spare you from having to read. However, I CHOSE this, and I remind myself that I am not a victim of this school – I am privileged to be here and can quit any time. I take a deep breath and start again. Will I make it? I don’t know, I am mid-mountain, but I’ve encountered other mountains, and my previous experience tells me, none of them are pleasurable until they’re behind us, and the only way they get behind us is one step at a time.

I frequently tell people that I hate to start running but love to finish. I think moving mountains is a similar endeavor. CU

Boston, West & Emotional Exhaustion

April 18, 2013 § 3 Comments

If you know me, you know that I am nothing if not one that JUMPS in to the boat with people. If sympathy is to have feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune and empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – I am sometimes so empathetic that I need an intervention.

I think I may have shared before that in my younger years I was so disassociated with my own emotion I would hijack other people’s trauma. As an (ahem) adult I remain deeply empathetic-  in part because of who I am, in part because of my upbringing, and in part because I don’t want people to feel alone. I would rather someone have to say “back up” than “I felt alone.”

I also know that a heart cannot harden itself particularly. Your heart is soft or it is not- you can’t foster unkindness and foster love – one corrupts the other, hopefully love wins. Since Monday I just keep asking myself how do I respond to this pain? How do I help those I know in pain?

Some of you may remember that I ran the Boston Marathon last year with Team in Training in honor of Marla and over 100 Fighters, Survivors,& Taken. I’ve run a lot of marathons & 1/2 Marathons. Austin, San Antonio, Dallas,all over New England, Berlin, Lisbon, Marrakech, Madrid… You get the picture.

I’ve never run a race like Boston.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – the Boston fans are the greatest fans in the world.

They know what you need before you do. They come early & stay late, cheering is a sport, they love the charity runners as much as the olympic runners, they LOVE that YOU love their marathon, Wellesley & BC & BU have marathon cheering traditions – it is a right of passage as a marathoner to experience them. You mark your progress in the marathon by these things.

In the final mile of the marathon you pass the Citgo sign, run under the Mass Ave bridge, and up the final and most brutal (smallest) hill of the marathon. You run onto Comm Ave. which leads you to Hereford, and as every Boston Marathoner knows, it’s “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” to the finish.

Fans line either side of Boylston – their cheers echoing back and forth off the Brownstones and high-rises – lifting you toward Copley Plaza and the FINISH painted permanently, but freshly, on the road.

To say that you NEED those cheers, those people, that energy is an understatement – to run that street with anything less than superbowl level enthusiasm would be next to impossible. 47% of Boston Marathon runners finish between 3:50 and 4:10 hour marathons. I am so hurt that 5000 people didn’t get to finish their race. I am so devastated that someone would injure the greatest fans in the world.

I was sitting in a discussion section for my American Politics class on Monday when I got the text that two explosions had occurred at the 4 hour mark of race. Sarad, my coach from last year and dear friend, called from Heartbreak Hill where he was coaching… I left class to take his call. He couldn’t get calls through to anyone on the team.

My cousin was at the Red Sox game with her girlfriend. Were they safe?

My ears were ringing. I thought I was going to throw up. I was shaking violently.

We know so many people that finish in those moments. My family and friends were sitting there at that moment last year.

I was not just empathizing, I had jumped in the boat and set sail.

In the end – some of the news was good and some hard, as we knew inevitably it would be. Boston is a small community, TNT is strong and tight knit.

People who ran last year and were there to cheer were injured – there is permanent damage.

People we know we know were finishing as or immediately behind each of the explosions – you can imagine the things they have seen.

Someone we know used to run for BU, some friends came to watch him, one did not make it.

It is very, very sad.

I dreamt for two nights that I was running through the finish – I could see Justin & my friends & family & coaches but I was protected by an invisible shield as they were bombed – and the marathon officials made me finish and pick up my medal.

As I began to regain my focus yesterday, by sheer will, I saw that an explosion had occurred in West. Home of the spicy hot chubby with cheese.

West is north of Waco. It is where I bought my Saturn and sold my ’69 Bronco (a true sign of either adult responsibility or stupidity) – the most generous and forgiving boss I’ve ever had in my life lives there with her husband and daughter Paige. After some frantic texts I found out they are fine.

The devastation began to unfold and familiar triage stations were set up and ambulances lined up to carry away the injured as another city I formerly called home prepared to care for the people of West.

I felt all out of tears, as I watched the tiny town of 2000 burn.

Twitter raced to try to get news, and wrap their mind around the devastation. I was reminded of when I thought 12 had died in Boston… I gently assured them that only time can provide accurate information, despite our desperate desire to know it’s going to be O.K.

My friend Annie has three children and said that when Sandy Hook happened they turned off the TV had family game nights and explained to their children, as they attained information about the tragedy from the internet, that mommy and daddy were sad because something terrible had happened. On Monday they did the same thing, but she wondered how much more they would be able to absorb…

The impact of what happened in West to a community of 2000 will be felt by every member of that community many times over for years and years to come, it was a horrific accident, but it will not take long for people to begin to look for someone to blame… someone to sue… someone to hold responsible.

In Boston, there is a person who sought to injure, harm, and terrorize the most incredible people in the world – the fans of the Boston Marathon.

Immediately there were calls to ‘fry’ the person, and all sorts of other terribly horrific things.

When they get to the bottom of who is responsible for these explosions and we’re going to hold their feet to the fire and… and… and… And then?

I probably asked Justin why 20 times on Monday… Why charity runners? Why 4:10? Why? Why? Why?

As if knowing why would make what happened or the consequences any easier.

Nor will being angry.

So much irrational violence in this country starts with roots of anger. Anger at a government, anger at being marginalized, anger at perceived injustice or inaction on the part of some authority… Domestic terrorism rests in seeds of this kind of anger that was fostered through years and irrationality into rage.

I turned off my Facebook account as people began to argue about the marathon bombing and gun rights… it was not civil, it was angry, and my heart was too broken to bear the anger. I feel sad that we’ve lost our capacity for civil discourse. No wonder we’re stuck in political gridlock, we can’t even respond to tragedy without arguing and accusing in anger.

I often think of the Katherine Switzer (one of the first females to run the Boston Marathon) quote, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” Running marathons has always been the place I’ve gone to cleanse my lenses of the grit of of cynicism about humanity…

It’s the same reason I told people my motive for working in humanitarian aid was selfish, you really see the most giving- selfless part of community.

My friend Liz just texted me from the blast site in West where she and her son are sitting with survivors to comfort them as various painful, but minor, medical procedures are being performed – she told me, “People from towns I’ve never even heard of drove in last night and started helping.”

S0 the answer: how do I respond to this pain? How do I help those I know in pain?

We’re going to be angry. It’s a natural stage of grief.

I’m no person to tell anyone else how to grieve, how to cope – what’s the best way. I only know there’s no way around but through. Each person will have to travel their own journey.

As for helping those in pain I keep thinking that grief and trauma are a lot like a marathon and less like a sprint. Moreover, like the Red Cross while all donations are appreciated, there will be a continued need next week and next month – because a marathon is a long race .

Right now there are presidents, governors, and lasagna for 300. There are interviews, news coverage, front pages & tweets.

Next week there will be soreness, quietness, and a nation that has moved on to the next crisis and a gaping opportunity for sorrow to take hold and anger to root deep.

Physical and emotional wounds are not altogether different, if not tended to carefully they can cause longterm, irrevocable damage.

How can we help? As the world moves on, we can stay fast, like the fans on Boylston in 93 degree heat 5 hours into the marathon still yelling as if it were the Superbowl. When we need a little help comforting we can use handy tools like this one , or just send a little note reminding those who suffered that we’re still thinking of them. If words are not your thing, then serve. If you can’t serve then give, if you can’t give – make a sign . I assure you. We all have some love to offer.

I have been reminding myself that this is a crazy world, filled with evil, that can only be fought with Love & Truth. When anger rises, I remind myself that answers to the whys and vindication won’t heal the deep wounds… But Love. Love covers a multitude of wrongs.

I’ve also been humming one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs, “I know that this thirst will not last long, that it will soon drown in this song not sung in vain. I hear the thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain, and with the prairies I am calling out your name…”

The End of my Early 30′s

April 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

This is the last day of my early thirties. I don’t know if it’s because I go to community college, or because of my chubby cheeks but I do not feel like I am about to embark upon my mid-thirties. I don’t really have an issue with age. I mean clearly – AM doesn’t look her age: She just looks young.

I am in shape. I am mentally active. I am about to embark upon a new health adventure. I just finished the Boston Marathon. I mean, essentially, I have the world by the tail – so there’s nothing to not love about my age. I am not sure what 35 is supposed to feel like, but if this is it, it feels great. This is the only thing. I can remember when my mom turned 35. As a kid I thought 35 was REALLY old. I’d like to slap that kid. (Just kidding KT, I don’t slap kids, I promise.) I’d also like to slap the kids in my class that look like they are going to faint when I tell them I’m 35 and they say, “No way, you look wicked young for 34.” Or there was the one that said, “Oh, my mom’s 34!” Now hear me, I understand she wasn’t wanting to have babies when she did, but the fact that it is HUMANELY possible for me to have a child that could be my academic peer makes me want to run to the bathroom and vomit.

All that to say. I am waving warmly goodbye to 34 and embracing my official mid-thirties. They are coming whether I want them to or not. Also. I am just so incredibly happy. What’s to resent. Incredible husband, getting an invaluable education (well – there is some way to value it – but I think it’s worth more!), we have great friends, an incredible family, and have so much to be grateful for. So this year intentional gladness, happiness, thankfulness, celebration, joyfulness, and compassion. It’s going to be great.

Remember the time I finished the Boston Marathon – in 93 degree heat?

April 26, 2012 § 10 Comments

It’s a week and a half later and I am still only considering running.

My cousin Stace says that I look like a hungry t-rex in this picture – I can only tell you that this is somewhere in the range of the 20 miles… as in in the miles containing the Newton Hills, and that I wanted to die… Not like that happy lady in front of me. That’s my running buddy Karen in purple next to me; whom I would not have finished that marathon without.

For a week the feeling of the warm sun on my back was enough to bring about waves of nausea.

To say it was the most difficult race I have ever run would be the most gross under-exaggeration of my life… ” ‘Twas a rough night.”

There is still a man in the hospital trying to recover from a heat stroke – hundreds of people were taken by ambulance, thousands went voluntarily – I feel VERY, VERY, VERY fortunate to have finished in the condition that I did.

OK, I think that paints a picture for you.

No? We were literally already at an elevated heat WALKING to the start line.

By .25 miles in I knew it was going to be bad, we had slowed our minute mile down by 1 minute 30 seconds, we slowed it down another 30 seconds and committed to walk EVERY water stop, NO MATTER WHAT WE FELT LIKE.

Blah blah blah blah blah – we finished, it was terrible, hard, difficult, etc.

This is what I want to say.

From before we started running to yesterday at lunch people have not stopped cheering. (Explanation of this sign)

As I ran into every little village I would yell, “It’s good to be in ________”

In Ashland there was a rowdy biker bar, they – by far – gave the best rowdy yell.

Wellesley gave an expectedly polite, but enthusiastic golf clap. You get my drift.

Here’s the thing. It was REALLY HOT. Not just for us, we EXPECTED to be hot. People cheering were there by choice. They didn’t have to stand there. They didn’t have to clap. They didn’t have to hose us down.

They didn’t have to hand us oranges. They didn’t have to buy ice bag, after ice bag, after ice bag… There were people that would run with us to make sure that we got ice. When we were still running. FIVE HOURS IN, on Beacon Street people were standing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET with ice, water, gatorade THAT WAS COLD (the water stations had luke warm stuff that was starting to make me gag – NOT THEIR FAULT, but REALLY hard to drink…)

I am crying typing this. When we got to the Fenway we were in the blistering sun, we were in so much pain, we were so hot… Strangers were yelling their hearts out, “We know it’s hard! Just a little farther! Hang in there! YOU CAN DO THIS!”, when we looked like we were going to fall over from heart sickness, “DON’T GIVE UP! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE NOW! REALLY!!!” When we turned onto Boylston for the last half-mile it sounded like the Superbowl, so many people yelling, it felt like the WHOLE WORLD WAS THERE. Six hours after the marathon started, NO ONE HAD GONE HOME. They followed the instructions on the signs also:

We SO needed them, and they just YELLED!

You guys, this marathon was awful, this is not the hardest course I have ever run, but it is ARRANGED in the most difficult manner I have ever encountered. MANY professional runners don’t finish.

It was so hot. It was so so so hot. It felt like we were cooking.

It’s mentally debilitating to watch busses of runners who have quit carted past you as you run, people hauled off on stretchers, and the constant sound of ambulance sirens. To turn onto Boylston just hoping that my little cheering team would still be there and instead I felt like I had just won the gold medal at the olympics – it was unreal.

I crumbled. I was so deeply thankful.

Those people just had no idea.

The people back in Hopkinton. The people on Hereford.

They had no idea.

And then we were done. And it has not stopped. When people find out I finished they just keep saying, “It was so hot! That’s incredible! You must be so proud!” and my immediate answer is, “I am, and I am so proud of Boston.” And I mean it.

I do not love this city almost 99.9% of the time, but April 16, 2012 has endeared me to this city forever.

(these are cheerers taking a break so that they can keep cheering – that’s how hot it was – and how incredible they were.)

This is actually not about the marathon though – WHAT? I know. Trickery.

This is about life.

I finished the marathon for a myriad of reasons. I had great coaches, a great Jillian, an incredibly supportive husband, AM/UK, and TEAM. I had friends who offered endless support, family who cared, and friends like Scott and John whose parents became sick along the way that reminded me why I was running.

I literally thought of Scott’s dad at least once a mile, and when I saw the Citgo sign at Fenway I vowed that he would go to games with his grandson at that ballpark on the tail of the research that this money raised would fund. What if Scott hadn’t shared his story?

What if that man and his wife hadn’t had that blue cooler on Beacon – and handed us cups – and told us to hold them in our hands to cool our core temperature.

What if Kendra and Tara hadn’t cheered for me RIGHT WHEN I THOUGHT MY ACHILLES was snapping?

What if the strangers hadn’t come out and stayed out?

We wouldn’t have finished. Literally. We needed every one of those water hoses. We needed every cheer. Every high five from tiny people.

And then this is what happened.

Real life.

You take the medal off.

It’s too hot to wear your finishers jacket.

You don’t have the tell-tale post-marathon stiffness (I still kind of do in my achilles.)

Hello cruel world.

I’ve been doing the Blissology yoga videos for recovery (this is because trying to get in the class at the West Roxbury Y is like trying to get a ticket to Prada’s show at Paris Fashion Week.) Eoin Finn is a surfer gone yogi – definitely an acquired feel. As in, I don’t think Justin’s going to be able to deal with him. However, he talks a lot about our attitude toward the world around us and the impact it has on our happiness.

Also, I was driving recently, and instead of cheering for me, people were cutting me off and screaming at me for not letting them turn right from the middle lane (I am a jerk, I know.) And I had an epiphany.

How much easier would life be if we treated life like a marathon? If we recognized the truth, everybody is running a VERY long race.

Some moments are ebullient, and some are heartbreak  - but what would happen if we treated everyone like they were running a marathon and cheered like this

In marathons people aren’t thinking about themselves, they are thinking about the end goal – EVERYONE FINISHING.

EVERYONE IS THINKING ABOUT THAT.

There is a cacophony of thank you, there is good will by all, there is kindness, deference, preference, and generosity.

Everyone is for everyone.

It comes effortlessly.

It’s a big party, people love it, entire cities are in a good mood, they are inspired, sacrificial, and united.

I believe it’s worth thinking about. Holding up our invisible signs for our fellow man, our fellow marathoners in life, handing out water when we can, cheering when possible!

And remember to keep our invisible, “You’re the SH*T” signs in front of us at all times –  because hey – life’s not easy – and we can all attest to that. Way to go to anyone who’s making it on this journey! Have an orange slice, and keep your eye out for the Citgo sign – when you get there just two miles to go.

(Most photos borrowed from this incredible post on the Lulu blog)

Addendum A:

I think this is especially important in our most important relationships. Karen and I had plenty of horrible moments in our 26.2 (actually my Garmin read 28.1 at the finish line) mile journey. We committed at the beginning of the race to each other. We just did. Leaving each other was not an option. There were points when it might have been easier for one of us to run, or one of us to walk, but in the end if we had we BOTH would not have finished. It spoke so deeply to me about my marriage and my dearest relationships. Sometimes it’s sweaty and miserable and sh*t, but you knew that was going to be the case when you started, stick with it. I promise you, at mile 15-25 I wasn’t easily convinced that mile 25.5-26.2 would make the previous hell worth it, but I am so incredibly glad that I didn’t give in. And I am so incredibly glad that Karen didn’t give up on me.

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