Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So, I finally did it. I ran the Boston Marathon.

I qualified to run the marathon back on Decenber 20th of 2009 at the Jacksonville LaSalle Bank Marathon. At the time, running meant something very different to me than it means to me now. I ran to escape demons, I ran from my problems, I ran to avoid life. Since that day, my life has changed drastically and I have changed, as well. One year, 3 months, and 28 days later, I stood at the starting line to the Boston Marathon not sure what to expect from my mind, from my body, from the course...

In all the races I have ever run, of any distance, I have never trekked to the start line solo and stood in the mass of people virtually alone. As Mark put me on the bus out to Hopkinton, I was all too aware that failure was looming in front of me. I did not train for this race..... We had been vacationing for five days prior..... I had tasted every beer in New England..... I ate indian food for the first time the night before(I Know, I know!)..... I had no fuel with me..... I had never practiced waking up at 5 am to run at 10:20..... I was wearing a brand new shirt.....I had no idea where Mark might be on the course, if he could even get there at all. At best, I hoped to make it to mile 10 before the death march began (or the violent stomache pains...indian food...). As I waved one last time to Mark, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I was already losing. Every fear of failure that ever existed was creeping into my head.

Maybe I really have grown as a person? Maybe finally being willing to share not only my joys, but my collosal failures with the people around me has truly changed me? Maybe surrounding myself with a group of friends and a wonderful boyfriend who not only challenge me daily but love me unconditionally has really made a ton of difference? All I know for sure is that, my mental heckling did no more than scratch the shiny surface of my armor. I was here, and dammit this was going to be an awesome day. No matter what the outcome, I could either choose to submit and be miserable or I could put a grin on my face and remember that I could never again relive this day. So, I set a new goal.
"You will smile every step of the way. No matter what happens, a smile will be on your face and you will take in everything this day has to offer. Period" And that became my mantra for the day.

I smiled the entire way. I looked like a moron, essentially. But you know what? I had a damn good time and I took mental pictures that will never ever fade from my memory. I didn't log my best time ever, but I wasn't far off and I have never had more fun running a race in all my years of racing. I walked away from the Boston Marathon with a renewed confidence. I have no doubt in my mind that had I let the fear of failure creep into my mind, I would have ended up walking; I would have ended the race miserable. Not because my body couldn't do it, but because my own mind wouldn't let me.

I say all of that to say this:

If you are not failing at something, you are not challenging yourself. And if you are seeing that failure as a reason to stop moving forward, you are missing the big picture. I haven't always known this. As a matter of fact, I still don't know this every day. It is hard to remember in the face of adversity that every outcome has a purpose in your life. I look back over a lifetime of seeming "failures" and I see it differently these days. I see that I was brave enough to not stand still for one second, to not be paralyzed by impossibility. I see that I never have and (Godwilling) never will settle for "just ok." I would be stupid not to see that just this change in perspective isn't yet another blessing in my life. I would be even stupider not to mention that Super Mark and all the wonderful people that challenge me with new perspective every single day have been a driving force in shaping me. And for that, I am supremely grateful. Even with all the contentment I have finally found, I hope I never find a day where I am willing to stop striving for more out of life.

Super Mark sent me this link yesterday:

It's a great post about challenging life and constantly striving to be a better person :-)

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Little Crap in the Yard Makes the Grass Greener...

There is a risk in loving someone; they are not perfect, you are not perfect. And when you make the decision to close your eyes and jump all in, to take down every wall, to let someone see you, you risk the very core of your soul. I have not loved someone in a looooong time. I have had a black heart for a looooog time, one with walls so high that no light could reach it. I have not trusted another person, fully and completely, enough to allow them access to the soft, squishy center of my soul since I was very young. I have been abandoned in my life by friends and lovers, by family. I have been trampled on, taken advantage of, thrown to the ground, made fun of, denigrated. I have been told I was worthless and I have felt even more so. I have made decisions that hurt myself and hurt others, I have failed more than I have succeeded. I suppose, in reality, I deserve nothing more than gut punches and bad karma.

Somehow, by the grace of the very God I have scorned, I have been blessed to be able to see all of my shortcomings in full light. I have been given the camera to my own soul and seen myself for what I was. I have been given the strength and courage to face it and change it. I have never been spared the consequences of my actions, something I once saw as an injustice, but now see as a blessing. I was unable to love and scared to trust.

Until this past year...

Perhaps the very strength of truly loving someone is being cut deep and letting the wounds heal stronger? I'm really not quite sure. I often feel the demons of past hurt tugging at me, pulling me back to the blackness that is so comfortable, yet so barren and unforgiving. I am afraid of becoming that person again but I am also afraid of how unprotected my heart is... I have paid so dearly before. And yet, here I stand, my soul is naked in front of my friends, my family, Mark. I refuse to hide behind false pretenses ever again. I refuse to not ask the hard questions both of myself and of others. And, I refuse to believe that life is some great cosmic poker game where each side is constantly seeking to expose the weakness of the other. It takes two to play and I folded.

Last night, Mark and I did something I've never actually done before. We wrote out goals-- individual goals and team goals, goals for our fitness endeavors, our finances, our personal growth. It was a fascinating experience to sit and verbalize to another person where I fall short and how I want to improve. Historically, I've not been quite so reflective. Afraid of all the crap I would see, I preferred to set goals that were easily achievable for me but impressive to others. The last year, though, has really taught me that the very things I have been afraid to "see" are the exact things that have landed me squarely where I am right now. The grass is greener today not because I got rid of all the crap but because I finally let it do its job. I let it fertilize my soul. I finally let my life blossom from the filth. Sure, it's stinky and dirty and imperfect, but in time, the whole thing will be covered with the beautiful moments and all that will be left are the lessons of yet another not so perfect life.

I will continue to give myself completely to this not so perfect life, I will continue to be "naked" in front of others, and I will continue to remember that every weakness is also a strength, every strength also a weakness.

So, watch your step and feel free to stop and smell the roses :-)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You may not recognize me....

I'm not so sure I do.

I'm thirty now... Not particularly old, not particularly young. Yet, I feel both renewed and alert like a child and wise and calm like a person of a much greater age. I can tell you that I never expected any of this. I never thought I would change so drastically. I certainly never thought it would bring about a level of happiness and fulfillment like I am enjoying even at this very second.

Not many people have the courage to be happy. I stood at the door a long time before I was brave enough to open it.

I have never been happier in my life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A new kind of athlete.....

I am at a crossroads. I didn't even realize it, but apparently I am. Last night, I was sitting drinking coffee with Mark and he asked me, "So you aren't training for anything??? Nothing? That doesn't seem like you.... why?" I sighed and stared at the ceiling. "I don't know. I am just not there. I am just loving my workouts and .... i don't know... just running to run. The rage is gone..." Mark was clearly perplexed and more explanation was necessary. So, I slowly tried to weed through my thoughts because, honestly, I was considering it for the first time myself.

I have always been a successful athlete, never played a sport at which I didn't excel (some more than others, of course). But running was different. I came to running because I was pissed. Not frustrated, not upset..... completely and utterly pissed off at all life had handed me. The rage started as a small bubble in my stomach and consumed me over the years. I was angry that my feet and legs hurt so badly from a botched surgery. I was angry that I felt pulled in the direction of one lifestyle by expectation but another by design and desire. I felt angry that I sold myself short in a relationship that was neither right or fulfilling but expected, thus ending in a chasm that left me fighting to find my equilibrium while satisfying the "fairytale" that wasn't meant to be mine. In other words, a string of relationships that rested on everything that wasn't right. Regardless of the fact that each person was a good person and that I am a good person, the relationships were bad and the reactive behaviors were worse. I was angry that I couldn't find satisfaction and fulfillment in my career after changing paths to satisfy yet another person besides myself. And quite frankly, I was enraged at the cosmic joke of a miscarriage given to a person who had been told they couldn't even get pregnant. Roxy's death was the final straw. What had once started as a bubble was a full force volcanic explosion. Nothing could stand in the way of the destruction!

It's interesting. In my path of destruction, much like hot lava, I ran rampant on my course but left behind a uniqueness and beauty that touched people and forever changed the landscape of their lives. I am thankful for that. There was good in the whole thing, not just devastation. The lava has lost it's heat, though. I am in the best place I have ever been and the rage that once erupted from my body and drove me forward at a breakneck pace is gone. I'm happy for that, I really am. But, I am also a little lost. I rode on a wave of rage for nearly 10 yrs. It burned my feet and sizzled my soul. I was part monster, part unmatchable force, and part magnetic draw. The monster is gone, I know, perhaps the force and the magnetism are still there? I don't know.

In the past months, I have done some really cool things.... I have done them with friends and loved ones. I have enjoyed moments that in years past would have missed my attention. I have moments now where I feel like I am floating above my life looking in and I can't help but to feel my heart swell and to think "Is this really my life? Am I really this lucky?" And I'm not talking about monumental moments, either. These are seemingly nothing moments. The rage is gone. I have no idea what drives you to do more, accomplish more, work harder, run faster, win more once the rage is gone. I'm a new kind of athlete, it's like running again for the first time, it's weird.

I am running at 8:30 pm tonight with my mom. I would never have done that before. It's too late, not the right pace, it interferes with work, blah blah blah... But I am looking forward to it. I've got nowhere to go fast. I think I might float above the moment and watch it. It should be a good one :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Live like you are dying...

I woke up this morning at 3:50 am. Yes, I know..... it's ridiculous. But Isabella (my 9 mos. old lab) insisted it was time to run and who am I to argue with that sweet little face? So, I laced it up and headed out into the darkness. Now, you might find this shocking, but at 4:20 am on a Saturday morning there is not much action and it's quite easy to find yourself within your head.

My family is always onto me about running alone in the dark. I know it is warranted, but I just never really give it a thought.

Izzy and I started out at a breakneck pace into the dark (she has yet to learn the art of pacing).
Around mile 3, I passed a man just standing on the sidewalk and it occured to me that if today was the day that the stars aligned, it could be over in a matter of seconds... I didn't feel afraid or worried or anything, just very aware of the fact that not a second of life is guaranteed. And that awareness made me start assessing how I feel about the way I live my life. Right now, there is a popular song out that says to "live like you are dying." I've always considered myself a person that lived this way because I never "wish" I could do something. I simply do it. I have zig-zagged all over the map "living life to the fullest." Don't get me wrong. It has led to a lot of really fun experiences and a ridiculous number of "fish stories" that get retold again and again. It recently became clear to me, though, that just doing all the things I want to do isn't living like I am dying. That's only one facet of a much bigger picture. The other parts are a whole lot scarier.

As I think about the self exploration and life reflection I have done in the last 3 months, the common theme is a lack of vulnerability and a complete inability to just accept everyone I meet for who they are, where they are in life, and without any expectation that they will ever be anything other than what they are right this moment. Yet another hard truth in a long line of hard truths about myself. I have neither loved people well, nor have I been loveable because I was so afraid of who I was inside that I couldn't let people see the real me, love the real me. And, in response, I have loved people with great caution and reservation assuming that they too must be hiding their true self.

It occured to me that if I were to die, I would never have known what it feels like to be fully loved or to love fully. As I have traveled through the last 3 months, I have discovered how much more fulfilling life can be when you begin to truly embrace all the special people in your life and then allow them to embrace you. As I write this, I feel full inside. The emptiness and darkness that has haunted me for a lifetime is gone. My heart is bursting with the experience and sensation of basking in the love that has been available all along. Equally, I am shocked by how fulfilling it is to truly love people in return. Sure, I feel vulnerable. Its scary to tell people how much they mean to you, how special they are. Its even scarier to be truthful and honest about your own thoughts, feelings, and needs. EXPOSING!

It has been so amazing to know that the important people in my life can truly know me and still come back for more...

So, here I am. This is me. I am more ok with that than I have ever been. I am enjoying people like I never thought possible. And I now know what it means to "live" and "love" like you are dying...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

This has been an amazing year for me so far. That is a strange thought considering I have spent more time injured than well and until this week, I was barely able to log even a third of the weekly mileage I was doing pre-marathon (December). Historically, my mental well-being has been strongly linked to my running, and my sanity, in general, has relied on the daily sweat sessions in order to maintain some semblance of normalcy. But, like a heroine addict entering rehab, it was snatched away from me. I ruptured my posterior tibial tendon when I rolled my ankle back in November and the marathon was the last straw before my body asked me to take a break and let it breathe for a second..... gulp! Commence the withdrawal shakes, inner brain wars with ugly demons, and floundering self-esteem. How the hell am I supposed to deal with all the crap inside of me without running?!?!? After several "relapses" and subsequent bodily revolts, I knew the options were quite clear:

1. Take the time COMPLETELY off from running and just heal for God's sake...... and learn a
new, improved, healthy way to deal with your mushy brain. Clearly, the world is not going to
come to an end just because Rebecca Wroten cannot go log miles.....


2. Keep pushing it... Go ahead... you just keep pushing your body until the running gods take
running away from you permanently.... I double dog dare ya...


I enlisted the help of Dr Frank Shultz to give me someone to talk to about all the swirling junk in my head, but also to help me understand why it was there and how to better deal with it. My friend/colleague/adoptive mother/sounding board, Betsy, tells me almost daily that the hardest change to make is self-change and the hardest person to deal with is the one that looks back at you every morning in the mirror. Oh, how true! This was a scary journey, but a necessary one, and I felt like the timing was impeccable.

I am looking down the path and I see the door to my thirties just ahead. If I turn and look back at my twenties, it is not a pretty sight-- full of bad decisions, self imposed chaos, multiple directional changes. As Dr Shultz puts it, I haven't done anything "wrong," I've just survived and sought answers using the map I was given and the knowledge I had acquired through the years. I was seeking a path the only way I knew how, survival mode, and I was doing a hella good job at surviving..... the problem has been thriving. The map I had wasn't cutting it, but venturing away from what you know, heading off the beaten path requires a lot of courage, humility up the wazoo, and determination. My map was a circle and I was diligently running the loop over and over again in an attempt to somehow end up somewhere else. Maybe you can see what I couldn't..... that was never gonna happen..... huh..... weird.

So here we are, three months later. I haven't written much about this journey... at least not publicly. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I have had to become vulnerable, to open the ginormous gate to my heart and break down some pretty thick walls. I do not like to feel vulnerable, it is a scary scary scary feeling. I have had to look myself in the mirror and decide that I'm ok with me, just as I am. I have had to start to learn to love people unconditionally, for where they are right now rather than trying to "fix" them or "save" them. They aren't broken or lost, they are on a journey just like me and all I can do is show them a different map. I have had to learn to be okay enough with myself to accept love rather than trying constantly to earn it, working harder and harder to prove that I deserve whatever love is given to me.

This week I ran a long run. It was a wednesday morning at 11 am. I ran to Betsy's office and I cried. Not a sweat cry (ok, well yes a sweat cry but this one involved tears too). My first real, true, tears and everything cry in 15 months. Tears actually fell from my eyes. My stomach squeezed, my heart flipped circles, my brain stopped working... and then, I ran some more. I ran a hole right through the bottom of my shoe. I blazed a trail until my body ached like my heart and all the pent up emotions fell from my eyes. This was a different sorta run, like a final hoorah, a goodbye to my past. Not that I will never again run out my emotions, but that my emotional well-being will no longer rest solely on that release.

I took a turn.

I stepped off the loop I have been running for over a decade now.

I am heading in a direction for which I do not have a map. It's a little scary, I'm not gonna lie, but it's the only way to move forward....... at a full tilt run, of course! :-)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Broke Ass Human

Once, when I was in my early twenties, I laid on my belly in the back of a Toyota Tacoma pick up truck for three hours. Every few minutes, I would inch forward just a smidge, slowly, methodically. Crouched under the toolbox was a dog that had been so badly abused that his insides no longer functioned properly. He was shaking, scared, and trapped. I was his only hope and his biggest enemy. Three hours. My knees and elbows ached and my back was screaming. But it was totally worth it when I first touched his head. He jumped and snarled baring his teeth and pretending he had any fight left in him. I knew better. I knew how he felt. An hour later, he was out of the truck and leaning against my leg. Ultimately, the thing he feared more than anything- human- had been the thing that saved him.

Yesterday, I held a young girl in my lap. She was beaten and abused. Her insides had been ripped out by a monster and her wisdom exceeded her age. When I looked into her eyes, I saw my own reflection and I felt our hearts meld into one. I understood. She knew. In her eyes, I could see the fear, the mistrust and the fight for survival. I held her against my chest and felt her relax against me. She has such a long road ahead, so many hurdles seen and unseen to jump. The demons can destroy her or she can destroy them. Who will win is anyone's guess. Ultimately, the thing she fears the most- trust- will be the only thing that can save her.

I ran today, a real run. A freedom run. A run like I haven't run in quite some time. And I cried today, a real cry. A freedom cry. A cry like I haven't cried in quite some time. Mostly I cried sweat. Who knows if I will ever learn to truly cry tears again? But my heart cried. I felt an ache so deep. I saw that little girl, wide eyed and terrified. I know how hard she will have to fight to see a straight line again and I know that unlike that dog, she may never be able to trust again.

My own wounds seem so deep sometimes that I wonder how much longer it will be before there is no warm, gooey center left. How long before every last drop has just seeped right out? Can they still heal at nearly 30 yrs old? I like to think so. This month is dedicated to that little girl. I will hold her and love her and show her how to trust again. I will destroy the walls before they can be built any higher. I will teach her to fight for herself and how to fight for love because it can exist, just not without trust.

There is some tough stuff ahead, but she is depending on me. I won't let her down.

"We are Broke Ass Humans. Cleansed by His blood and held in His hands, we are safe. We are better for being broken." -Jeff