Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My pacer in the Race of Life

In the spring of 1998, I went to the pound and picked out a dog. Well, in reality, I suppose she picked me out. I didn't like her at first with her multi-color eyes and big curly tail. But she loved me and my Memaw said that "a good dog picks you, you don't pick them." Dogs have a better intuition, afterall. They don't base their decision on all the silly things that we consider. I was picking out a dog for reasons different than most people. Sure, it was fun to get a puppy, but Roxy was destined to serve a much bigger purpose. She had a big job and my life and my future rested on her shoulders. I think she knew that.

When I was 14, my battle with anorexia began. I don't know exactly how it started or why it started. I am sure a psychologist could have fun blaming this or that and analyzing the various events leading up to it. But however it came to pass, it sucked me in and consumed my every thought. Looking back, it's a hard thing to explain. I wonder how I ever did it- how I played sports year round (and even excelled at them), how I covered it up, how people didn't shake me and scream and yell, how I could stand missing out on so many things. My memories of those years are very sparse and there are even periods of months that I cannot recall at all. I do remember the day I asked for help. I do remember that that day was actually just the beginning.

A year after I asked for help, my situation was worsening and my parents were at a complete loss. They covered for me when people asked and I suppose in a lot of ways it was pretty embarassing for them. Mostly, though, I think they felt like I was sliding through their fingers like the fine, soft sand on the beach. Pieces of me- my personality, my organs, my body parts- were being caught in the winds of time and carried away, never to be seen again. Desperation is what got me to the pound. Desperation is what made my dad agree to the nutritionist's suggestion of a puppy, a therapy dog. The hope was that I would feel the unconditional love of a puppy and regain a sense of purpose, a motherly instinct to survive and thrive to protect my baby. Even better, I would hopefully learn to gauge how much she needed to eat or not eat or exercise or not exercise and begin to apply those principles to my own life. It was a long shot, a very long shot.

The recovery rate for anorexia is not good. A very small percentage of those who enter the murky waters come away from them and never dip their feet back in. The day I picked Roxy up from the pound, the hard work began. We were inseperable, Roxy and I. She rode all over town with me. We went for walks and jogs and spent countless hours sleeping all curled up together. When I went to college, every bare wall was covered with pictures of her and I- reminders of my sweet angel dog.

I wish I could say I quickly gained back the weight and life was good. But I can't. I did gain back some; I had to because I was playing soccer at Florida Southern that year. My liver was not doing well and the doctor had serious concerns about other side effects of anorexia. I played that season, but I did not do well. No longer could shear will-power carry me through the tough workouts and long days. My body was tired and I was exhausted. After just one season, I moved back home. It was a huge loss for me. Soccer had been my sport. I loved the game and reveled in the physical execution. My body was failing me now and I couldn't pretend anymore.

Roxy was at home to greet me. She knew she was needed and stood by me every step of the way. She loved me and gave me purpose, even after I had lost my hopeful ambitions. The summer after I graduated from college, my weight had stabilized within a healthy range and I was considered "cured." I have never gone back. I've never stood on the banks of the murky waters and considered the temperature. I have never dipped a toe in or considered diving in to retrieve the lost memories. Not once. And Roxy has been there all along. She has walked by my side the whole way, a constant reminder that I am loved.

It's been eight years or so since I was officially "better." Roxy is laying beside me right now, snoring softly. She had a tumor removed from her face yesterday. The veterinarian couldn't get all of it and is not confident of any hopefulness for her. Her little face is swollen and bloodied and I can feel that she is in pain. I am afraid to lose her. I am afraid of procedures I cannot possibly afford. I can't even remember my life before her; she is eleven. I wonder to myself how can I look at her and tell her I can't save her? She came into a darkness that no one else could enter. She saw me, my heart, in a blackness where people saw loss and hopelessness. She never got mad or frustrated, she never gave up. She was my brave little puppy. She took my sickness.

The pathology came back and the tumor is indeed malignant. The cancer is s pretty horific one and the next weeks and months will be very tough for Roxy. :(

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Run for joy!

People run for a lot of reasons. I suppose they are all good reasons, but I feel like sometimes we just don't really "get it." I am sure that based on the little bit that people know of me, they must think I hop right out of bed when the alarm goes off between 4:00 and 4:30am. I bet they think I sleep in my running shoes and cannot think for one second of something I would rather do than run. I can assure you, at 4 o' clock in the morning there are LOTS of things I would rather do...... Sleep being quite high on that list. What's interesting about running is that you don't really love it until you've already done it for the day. At 4 am, I hate running.

Sometimes- not at 4 am, mind you- I think that it is such a shame that I have to have a reason to run. I think it's sad that only once in a blue moon do I actually pause and reflect on the "gift" that is running. I was reading today about men and women who have served in Iraq, people who will most likely never run again. I read about people who lost body parts, lost their vision, experienced horrible, unimaginable things, suffer from diminished mental capacity, and perhaps worst of all, people who have lost a joy for life. We live in a weird time right now, a scary time. Many people have experienced great loss and despair. We do not, however, live in a hopeless time. We don't live in a time when joy should be far from our hearts. That time does not exist.

Yesterday, my nephew (2 yrs old) picked out a Giant dump truck for his birthday present. As we left the store, he bent over to push the dump truck and ran with all his heart across the parking lot, Baby Bear safely tucked into the cab. When we reached the car, he stood up, smiled and said simply, "Play truck, Aunt Bec!"

It's just that simple, isn't it? The world is going to spin, the seasons are going to change, we will experience sorrow and loss, we'll grow old. But when we look back, I think it is the greatest loss if we look back and see anything less than joy. If we look back and see that we set our sights on silly, tangible things and missed the forest for the trees. Joy in life is right there, waiting for us to grab the moments and store them in our hearts for tough times. I ran with joy this morning. I felt the power in my legs, the camraderie of my friends. The breeze was just perfect and I was free to let my mind wonder. I could feel the rhythm of the pavement pounding under me and us breathing, making our own special music. The dog looked at me and I swear she winked at me. She knew. Dogs get it.... little kids do too. Running is freedom, it's escape, it's proof that you can do anything you put your mind to.

I hope and pray you run with true JOY in your heart. That you cherish the "gift" that is running and you face each day knowing that promise and possbility lie before you. Focus your mind on the sweet things in life and glory in moments that make you smile.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Honesty is a gift...

In our society, it is very rare that we feel the freedom to be honest with others. I am not talking about the mean, crass, opinionated kind of honesty that jumps to mind, but instead of the kind of honesty that speaks truth into people's lives and validates what they already know in their hearts to be true. I am also talking about the kind of honesty that keeps us from over-commiting, that let's friends and family know how much we love them, and tells someone that they have hurt our feelings. Women, especially, seem to have trouble being honest. That is not to say we are all bold-faced liars who bamboozle everyone around us. What I do find though, is that women are so afraid to speak up and tell the truth that they often allow their own health, fitness, desires, wishes, and time to be swindled away.

More often than not, we juggle an enormous weight of stressors just barely keeping each one in the air. Until, of course, one falls and then they all come crashing down and we "don't know what happened because we can usually handle everything." We take on more and more responsibility and sacrifice ourselves in the process. I think we somehow see this as powerful, but the reality is that we often go through the motions without feeling the joy of life because we just can't. It's not fun anymore.

A woman is a powerful creature and honesty is a powerful tool. Honesty is a gift. In my own life, I struggle with being honest, with telling someone I just can't do something for them. I struggle to tell someone that they have hurt my feelings. I try to be everything for everyone. I am on a mission to be more honest. I want to speak truth to my friends and feel truly joyous when I commit to something. I want to be honest with my husband when I need help from him, rather than fuming underneath and "just doing it myself." I want to be honest with myself when I do something wrong, rather than shifting the blame or making excuses.

I respect people who are honest with me. My friend, Luchrysta, shoots straight from the hip. She is never afraid to tell me when I am not doing what is Godly or when I need to re-evaluate my priorities. It sounds painful, I know. And it is most of the time..... but I ALWAYS appreciate her input and perspective. When we take the time to be truly honest with each other, the picture is so much clearer. So, I am going to try it. I'll let you know how it goes.....God help me!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Running Partners

I am what my friends affectionately refers to as a "Running Whore." I know, I know, it's not nice. As a matter of fact, it actually sounds quite mean but I assure you, if you know my friends, it is not. There is really not much I can say back to him when he says this because in all honesty, it is the truth.

"Hello. My name is Rebecca and I have a problem. I will run with anyone, at any time of day, and pretty much anywhere."

This is one of the big things I notice can be quite different between men and women when it comes to running. Women will run with just about anyone they can at any time of day. I know exactly who to call if I need to start at 4 am and who will sweat it out in the sun at lunch and who will force me to do it later in the evening. I know who to call when I need a speedwork session and who will do the hills and even who will go run next to me on the treadmill. Women will also compromise and make sacrifices in order to run with their friends, something men do not generally do.

I think it begins with the fact that women really "shouldn't run alone." While it is perfectly acceptable for a man to run at some ungodly hour all by his lonesome, us being the fairer, more delicate, and generally less hairy sex makes us a bit more desireable to the meanies of the world. At least once a week, I leave Brian behind and me and the dog, Sophie, go meet the girls for some Girl Running. I love this time because Girl Running rarely has an agenda. We have really no pace in mind, we can stop and stretch or use the bushes as needed, we rarely have anyone in the group who farts or blows snot-rockets, and we talk non-stop the whole time. Yes, the WHOLE TIME. We've laughed, we've cried, we've shared secrets and heartaches and stories and memories and scandals... and we've done all this before 6 am! Such multi-taskers, us women! This is nothing like when men run (or ride) together where the testosterone begins flowing before their heart rate evens gets elevated and the whole effort is 100% and they talk about how easy it is and pound their chests and finally come home and whine the rest of the day about how bad they hurt. You know what I am talking about, I know you do.

I have some of the best running partners a girl could ever want. I love each of them dearly and they have saved me from myself more time than they will ever know. I remember the morning after I found out my baby was dying, my friend Betsy met me at some ungodly hour (5 am, I think) in 40* weather to go biking. It could have possibly been the worst workout ever, EVER I tell you! But, never once did Betsy or the others even speak of turning around. It wasn't an option. They knew better than me that just as the cold was numbing my fingers and toes, the ride was numbing my brain and giving me the freedom to let my mind be still, just for a moment. I will never forget that ride. Had I been in a good frame of mind, I would have been the first to suggest we just go back and get pancakes. But that day, I needed to ride. And my friends suffered so I could. I have really really good friends.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lessons in SELF...... from preschoolers.

I watched my friend, Rosa's kids today. Three of them.... all boys- 5 yrs, 3 yrs, and 6 months. I hadn't been over in a while and so I had to be re-introduced to the spaceships and each Wii game and see the new ones and look at the new leggos that couldn't be opened until "I have a good week at school," and see the new book from the book fair and....... tired yet?
Once the eldest was convinced I was properly impressed with all of his toys, he set everything down and said, "yeah, but let's go outside and play." So out we went. Preschoolers have a very clear image in their mind of what they are "good at" and what they "will be better at when they are bigger" and the cool thing is, they are ok with it. It doesn't define them or stop them, it's just a reality. "Yeah, I can't do that very good, but when I am bigger I will be the best at it." Somewhere between 5 and 28, we lose that, and in it's place creeps the soft whisper, or the roaring yell, of self-doubt. Somewhere in there, life is defined by some arbitrary definition of success and failure. I'm not sure what does it, what suddenly makes us afraid to be decisive, afraid to say what we are good at, afraid to admit what we struggle with, afraid to just be truthful, and afraid to be plain silly. What I do know is that a day with a preschooler, or three, will make you wonder why you live life being afraid of being true to your SELF.
I didn't get the answer to that question today. Stephen was busy showing me how fast he could run and Peter couldn't be bothered with such silly questions while he kept track of the score of our baseball game- the Caterpillars vs the Owls. I'm quite sure they didn't care about such thoughts.

The Caterpillars won today-- 6 to 5. The Owls didn't mind too much. It was just another game in a long string of them, none of which will really change the way the world turns. And besides, getting a red popsicle was much, much more important.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Moms and Daughters....

Moms and Daughters are a funny sort of thing. I don't really get the relationship and its dynamic and I don't know that I ever will but, I strive to look at most things from both sides. Here's the thing: Moms love their daughters....a lot. I get that. Daughters love their mothers....a lot. Yet the two drive each other nuts in a way that is both unique and completely exasperating. You are magnetically drawn to each other and at the same time push against each other like opposite sides of a magnet. My mom and I are very similar in many ways and completely different at the same time and perhaps therein lies the dynamic. I'm not sure.
What I am sure about is that no one will ever be sure and I think you have to really work to make the relationship well or you look back at wasted energy and arguments that really solved nothing. I never knew how much my mom really must love me until I lost my baby. I had never even held it and yet every cell in my body ached at the loss. It was amazing. My mom was with me at the ultrasound when the doctor told me the baby was dying. How horrible. But, even through my tears, I found it interesting that Mom didn't know whether to hug me or leave me alone. She didn't know whether to talk or just be quiet. My mother of 28 years had no idea what to do. In that long span while we sat there I pondered this thought and realized that every time she ached for me, I pushed her away. Cruel, huh? And now when all I wanted was for her to wrap her arms around me, she just didn't even know if it was the right thing to do. Moms and daughters are a funny thing.
Mom took up running a year or two ago. She started easy and I helped her plan how to train and what to do each day. I thought it was a passing thing. Mom finished her first marathon this year at 55 years old. She's a tough cookie, that mom. There's a lot I didn't know about my mom, really. I didn't know she could be so focused. I didn't know she could push herself and accomplish a big goal. I didn't know she could overcome the aches and pains and keep going. I should have known.... she raised me after all.
Things are a little different between Mom and me now. We have each had the chance to view each other in a new light. We still do the Mom and Daughter dance but it's different now. We don't always see eye to eye and we never will. But, in reality, it's not so important that our eyes match up because our hearts do....

Monday, March 2, 2009

This is the blog of my Journey to the center of SELF. My company, SELF Concepts, has been in development for a year and has finally launched! As I developed the company, I had to look into my heart and decide exactly who I was and what I wanted to bring to other people. Seems easy right? Nope. Life has been an interesting and curvy road for me with lots of lessons that were both hard and humbling. These tough lessons have shaped my life and really brought into perspective exactly what I want my life to be about and who I want to be for others.
This past January I had a miscarriage at 11 weeks-- an experience that ripped through my very core and changed my direction in a matter of moments. Suddenly, everything about my life seemed silly. Just motions, without direction or feeling. The one constant that carried me through was my running. Most mornings, my I wake up by 4:30 am to slog through the streets of Lakeland, FL; Sometimes I go with friends, sometimes just me. The dog is almost always attached to her pink, paw-print leash and I always giggle to myself when I catch myself talking to her. Running is my time. Running is my freedom, my safety, my constant. I run when I am angry or sad. I run when I am happy and I feel promise all around. I run to appointments, to visit friends. Running is one of God's greatest gifts and I embrace it for everything it has to offer.
So, my Journey to the Center of SELF has begun and I am off and, well, running. I intend to change my town. I intend to change people's lives.