Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Called Clarity

{Captivated by the possibility of a reason to bark.}

People sometimes say that when something traumatic happens their life "flashes before their eyes."

I can't say that I know the feeling, to be honest. I've had those moments where I came THIS close to getting in a serious accident or escaped a potentially traumatic injury but it's never caused me to feel like the entire life I have lived up until this point has flashed before me.

Instead, I like to think of those moments as an opportunity to experience clarity. It almost always follows that "Oh $hit" moment you feel when potential disaster narrowly misses you in some way. You think about what could have been---disaster---and what is now---another chance to exist the way you are right now.

A few weeks ago, I had a moment of clarity that has stuck with me for some reason. I was running with one of the dogs (the small but crazy one, if you're curious) around our country block and as we passed a field of corn that was being harvested, it happened. A huge deer--a massive buck--came leaping out of the dried corn and ran just behind us. Narrowly missing us, I'm guessing. I felt the breeze from his body if that says anything about our proximity to one another. I had no time to react or even understand what was happening. Once I did, the moment had already passed. It really happened that quickly. {Cue the snapping of my fingers.}

I stopped, however. Transfixed by that moment. We were nearly plowed over by a ginormous deer that easily could have maimed or killed us. I was searching for what it all meant, I think. I can't be sure, but I believe that the moments in our lives meant to snap us out of whatever funk we are in are just that major--and also just that subtle.

In a life that sometimes feels like it has no clarity, I tend to hang on to the moments where I feels like I can touch that feeling at least temporarily. Maybe it meant nothing; perhaps it represented something. I don't think that matters so much as that I took notice of the moment.

I think clarity arrives in each of our lives wearing a different face, and is often wrapped in an unassuming package. To remind us, like in this case, that timing really is everything. Or, that we sometimes need to stop what we're doing to think about what could have been or what might be happening that we haven't ever stopped to notice.

I also thought about what the headline might say in our local paper if I was, in fact, mauled by a deer. I imagine something like this:

Local Woman Mauled by Eight Point Buck in Freak Running Accident: Local Beagle Mix Still at Large

That's right: I live in a fantasy world in which I have the ability to write my own headlines. And I know for a fact that my Beagle Mix would still be at large in this instance. Sniffing some really important blade of grass that has captured every shred of his attention, I'm sure. I don't know that beagles understand clarity.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hiatus

Have you ever taken a break from something you love?

It's a difficult thing to do, you know.

Without realizing it, I took a hiatus from one of my life's greatest loves: running. I haven't always completely understood my love for running, to be honest. We fell in love in college, and quickly fell into a full blown passionate love affair. Running is my life's passion. It's my therapy. It's always been an uncomplicated, love-filled relationship that brings light into my life.

In 2006, I ran my first half marathon. It was painful, but I kept going. I ran another half in 2007 and a third in 2008. Then, I stopped. I kept running on my own but I let my passion for running fizzle. I stopped because I wanted to have children. Then, I couldn't have children. Things got complicated.

I even let a physician with at least 4 advanced degrees hanging on his floral wallpaper covered office wall convince me that running was preventing me from getting pregnant. He gasped audibly and removed his glasses in a soap opera-like shock when I told him how many miles I ran a week (25+) and he told me I needed to either scale back or stop entirely. Anything over ten miles, he explained, had the potential to cause problems with my body. He even went so far as to say that running was "too jarring for the reproductive system." I pictured my insides being shaken up like a martini. It made sense. Apparently.

Back then, I clung to every word out of my doctor's mouth. Stop running. No alcohol. Don't take echinacea. Don't ride a bicycle. No coffee. Buy a three-year supply of prenatal vitamins. I did it all, because I always did as I was told. If I wanted to have a child, it was necessary to make these sacrifices.

It felt like my world was being turned upside down. I was fixated on something I couldn't touch, because of a laundry list of what I could not do. It got old very quickly. Particularly when it made no difference whatsoever.

Nearly three years later, I realize that I'm not willing to give up something I love for something that probably won't happen. It was snuffing out a light inside of me that was just begging to shine. I needed to start running again. I had been denying that part of myself for so long that I had forgotten it ever existed.

I signed up for a half marathon last week, in the spring of 2012. And in the fall I'm going to run my first full marathon. It was the culmination of so many things: getting back to my life's passion was like taking a mask from my eyes. I could see again, and it has renewed me in a way that is difficult to describe.

I gave up my passion without realizing it; it was only until I brought it back into my life that I realized it had been missing all these years. I don't remember letting it go, really. But it was gone. And it was slowly taking pieces of me with it.

I took my very last prenatal vitamin last week. I danced around the house with the enormous empty bottle, dogs and husband wondering if I had actually gone crazy. I have taken those stupid vitamins for three years, a daily reminder of what I do not have--and it was slowly snuffing out my joy.

Here's the thing: giving up something you love for something you desperately want is worth the sacrifice. However, letting it leave you entirely is not. I think sacrifice is often a means to an end; but it doesn't have to end something that makes you feel alive. I gave up my love for a purpose back then, but I realize today that my life has a new purpose---and I don't have to sacrifice a part of myself any more.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life Lessons

My BFF Oprah likes to say that your life is always speaking to you. Perhaps it's a whisper or maybe it's a brick wall that crumbles around you. It usually starts out as a whisper, then progresses to wall-like magnitude if you don't get the hint. Regardless, you need to get the hint--or you will be faced with disaster.

I think about this a lot: what is my life saying to me? Am I listening, or just simply going through the motions so that I can reach my destination? I was reminded of what my life has told me for years now as the football season drew to a close. My better half, the football coach, just wrapped up his first season as head coach.

We did not win a single game. Last year, we did not win a single game either.

It's not easy to face such a dire situation, you see. Sure, the game is not about winning--no, it's about much more than that. But, wouldn't it be nice to just win a few here and there?

Perhaps. But on one especially cold and dire evening, I reminded my husband of something he already knew: he and his team were smack dab in the middle of an important life lesson. Sure, those boys probably have no idea and maybe the adults don't either, but they were learning something incredibly important: things don't always turn out the way you imagined. And really, that's OK.

I know this because it took understanding that we are not in control of our destiny to get it. Who is more prepared to explain what it means to not have something you desperately want than my husband? Maybe it's not fair, or there could be some other way to "get it" but I don't believe that's for us to decide.

It's like watching the seasons change again; I tried to hang on to summer for as long as I could. Really, I did. But, it's not within my control. Time will pass, the years will drag on and I'm a fool to resist it. I think the changing seasons remind me that despite the flip of my calendar, it feels like we are still waiting to adopt and making little, if any, progress.

Time, as you probably know, has an amazing power to heal us. To separate us by distance and time from the things that have wounded us. It doesn't make them any less painful or less real, it just helps us to understand that the world doesn't stop for us. Or, that we can slowly move on from something that feels like it will never stop haunting us. I think a lot about what I have to learn, or how I could move on and I would say that my greatest healer has been my greatest obstacle: the passing of time. It really does heal you if you give it the chance. I hate waiting, but I know it's part of the experience. It's more rewarding this way. It means more to work for it.

My life has told me for years what I refused to hear: I'm not in control. I cannot control everything, or anything when it comes to the progression of my life. Things don't always fall exactly into place. You cannot take your blessings for granted. But most importantly: your greatest heartache will someday be your sweetest blessing.

"When you can see obstacles for what they are, you never lose faith in the path it takes to get you where you want to go. Who you're meant to be evolves from where you are right now. So learning to appreciate your best lessons, mistakes and setbacks as stepping stones to the future is a clear sign you're moving in the right direction and letting in the light.” –Oprah Winfrey


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