Living Unbroken 

When you feel strong, you become strong. 

I had no idea I needed this. I had no idea I still needed to heal. I didn’t know my heart still hurt. I didn’t know I still saw doubt in every familiar face. I didn’t recognize how much I was guarding my heart. I didn’t know I still so desperately needed someone to say I believe you

My intention for this year of life was to prove to myself that I am strong. I lined up at the start line of the Shamrock Half Marathon with a simple statement on the back of my race bib: Permission to be Unbreakable. As race day approached, I wrote these words on this blog:

2016 is different. 2016 is the year I write my own story. This blank slate is giving me the opportunity to launch myself down whatever path I choose. There is no heartache to overcome. There is nothing to heal, fix or piece together. I am whole. 

I believed it with my whole heart. 

Except. 

Except there was still a crack. There was still doubt. There was still a shadow clinging to everything I did. I still didn’t believe that I was unbreakable. I still didn’t believe that I was strong. I had been broken. I had been raped. How I viewed myself, how I spoke to myself, and how I believed in myself had been rewired. I was wired with doubt. 

That doesn’t go away without awareness. This week I’ve become aware. 

A few months ago, I was lifting weights. The owner of Evofit looked at me. She said You don’t have an aggressive bone in you body, do you? It was very much a truthful observation. Her words stuck with me. They’ve motivated me. This week I’ve become aware of why. 

I still didn’t believe I was allowed to fight for myself. 

I still didn’t believe I was allowed to be strong. 

Every time I’ve hit publish on a piece of my story this week, I’ve silenced those beliefs. Every time you’ve read my words, you’ve help me rewire my approach to myself. 

This week has been a lot. I’ve cried. I’ve felt triumphant. I’ve felt empowered. I’ve cried. I’ve cried more. I’ve cried tears for your stories, and I’ve cried tears of release for my story. 

All week I’ve thought to myself when you’re strong you become strong. 

Before strength can ever manifest itself on the outside, I needed to believe it on the inside. I needed to truly believe it. This week I have found my strength. I’ve found it emotionally. I’ve found it physically. 

I didn’t need to believe that I was whole. I’ve always believed that about myself. I needed to believe that I wasn’t broken. 

Healing is something that continuously happens over a lifetime. Being aware of my internal strength will carry me through the process. I will always look back at this week every time I need a reminder. 

My quest for strength also continues. It’s time to live like I’m unbreakable. Finding my strength is now about potential. What can I achieve now that I believe I won’t break? 

It’s time to find out. 

A 70lb PR on Tuesday

Kindness is Quiet

“I’ve decide it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.” ~Nadezhda Mandelstam

When I hit publish on the first blog post, So much more than no means no, I felt like an eighteen year old version of myself. I trembled. I took a shower and cried. In that shower and with those tears, I washed away the fear. I became empowered. 

I couldn’t sleep Monday night. A crack in my silence had formed, and I needed to get it out. I needed my words, my story, my voice on paper. In the dark while my house fell asleep, I wrote. 

Yesterday I went to hit publish again. It was time to scream: I was raped. I trembled. I took another shower and cried. This time it was a release. My body was squeezing out every what if I have ever played in my head. I was releasing every doubt, every bit of self blame, and every insecurity I’ve ever held. Putting my story on paper and hitting publish gave me my voice back. My story was no longer my burden to carry alone. I gave it back to the universe. 

Every single one of you caught me. You stood beside me. By reading my words, you offered to carry the weight with me. 

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. You all have flooded me with love and compassion. You’ve lifted me up. You’ve celebrated my voice. You’ve made me feel safe. You’ve trusted me with your secrets.
At first it was my dear friends. The people who love me best today stood beside me. Then it was the people who loved me most during that year of my life. My heart exploded. I took the most comfort in the support from the people who have always provided it. Then friends of friends started reaching out followed by people I’ve never met. The ripple effect was beginning. My screams were being heard around the world.

Then I started to hear your stories too. My heart broke every time I received a message. I will carry your weight too. I will catch you. You are not alone. We are all stronger together. The words of support I received belong to you too. Please read them all. They are yours to keep. 

I couldn’t hear them when I was raped. During that year of my life, I heard the hatred. I felt the anger from all of his supporters. It was all I noticed. Eighteen years later, I see them for what they were: A small pack of teenagers who needed to be angry at someone. They were small in comparison to all of you. 

You didn’t just show up yesterday. You’ve been here the whole time. 

Kindness is quiet. It doesn’t scream from the rooftops. It doesn’t flood the streets of town with energy and anger. It doesn’t need to. It is kind. It is gentle. It is authentic. But what if it did? What if kindness flooded the streets with the same energy as anger?

In our broken society, we see and hear the broken.  We feel the anger. We highlight and focus on the bad, but kindness is everywhere. 

I am so sorry I couldn’t feel your kindness more. It was everywhere. From the boy who was brave enough to still like me the summer after high school. You brought me strawberry gum and candles because you knew I loved strawberries. I liked you too, but I was afraid. I no longer trusted the intentions of men, and I couldn’t see that you genuinely liked me. To the friends who didn’t know what do with this topic, neither one of us knew how to navigate the space. So many of you said sorry yesterday. I am sorry too. At eighteen, none of us should have to know how to deal with this. I’m sorry I didn’t trust your kindness. I’m sorry I let myself believe that no one believed me. To the people I let it, to the people who chose to love me, thank you. You are brave. You are strong. You suffered beside me, but I took all the attention. It was my burden to carry, but it spilt over on to you. Thank you for being strong enough to figure it out with me. 

I’m going to beg you all one more time. If you’ve taken the time to read this, help me make kindness loud. Today our world is flood with anger. It’s flooded with ego. It’s flooded with entitlement. It’s running for President. It’s raising our children. It’s shaping our future. 

Let’s make the world noisy with kindness. Be kind to your neighbor. Accept people for who they are. Celebrate our stories. Let’s assume we are all doing the best that we can, and let’s help each other do better. You all have showed me how to do it. 

Show up. 

We are stronger together. 

A few years ago, I got an email from my rapist. He wanted to know why I did that to him back then. I considered ignoring him, but I couldn’t. My response was simple. He has a different memory from that day. It has taken me my entire lifetime to recover from what he did to me, and I hope he can find his happiness as well. 

I tip toed around my story in this blog post: Loving Kindness. I wasn’t brave enough to share my truth then, but my heart found forgiveness. Today my heart has the same wish. 

May I be filled with loving kindness

May I be well

May I be peaceful and at ease 

May I be happy

May you be filled with loving kindness

May you be well

May you be peaceful and at ease 

May you be well

Please keep sharing. Please keep celebrating the young woman who was raped in Stanford. Let her feel our kindness. Share her story. Share my story. Share your story. But let’s heal the hearts of our rapist and their families too.  We have to stop the cycle. It doesn’t come from healing the survivors. It comes from healing the attackers. I hope that the Stanford rapist’s dad is able to fully examine how he lives life. I hope the rapist becomes aware of his evil. I hope my rapist can heal and do something wonderful with his life. I hope we can all heal. 

It is not us versus them. It is us. It is all of us. 

Help me make kindness heard. I’m so tired of anger being the only thing we hear. 

May you be filled with loving kindness 

May you be well

May you be peaceful and at ease

May you be happy




 

Clipped in

I woke up this morning with a lump in my throat. Sadness hung all around me. When I got to work I saw the date. January 13th. Two years ago I had the same lump in my throat all day. I had the same sadness. I went to bed two years ago and dreamt of my aunt and losing here. I woke up on January 14th, and I cried the entire way to work. I could feel her leaving. Not long after I got to work, I got the news. My aunt had just passed away.

It’s been two years. Most days I smile when I miss her, but today I just want to cry.

*********

I went to my first spin class tonight. It’s way out of my comfort zone. Group classes, high intensity, and uncharted territory freaks me out. I know I lack physical strength. I knew class would be a challenge.

I joined the J&A Racing Team for class. We had the studio to ourselves. Before I knew it, I was in the front row about to tackle something completely new. I couldn’t hide. Two minutes into class I knew I was in over my head.

*********

When I was sixteen I broke both my legs: left tibia and right femur. I had surgery. Two titanium rods and eight screws were placed in my body. As a result my legs will always be off balance. The aren’t equally proportioned. It’s never been an issue.

**********

The more I spun, the more aware of my imbalances I become. My legs felt like they were working against each other. I couldn’t find an even rotation. My right foot kept unclipping. I couldn’t clip back in. I became more and more aware of myself, my body, and my imbalances.

I felt incapable.

The instructor saw it. He quietly told me to quit thinking.

It worked for a minute. When I stopped thinking about my inability, my weakness, my disabilities, things flowed smoother. But when I quit thinking, I felt.

Today I am struggling to feel anything but sadness, anything but the loss of my aunt.

*********

Two years ago I cried on my way to work. Today I cried on my way home. After spin class, I couldn’t stop the tears. It cracked me wide open. My shoulders trembled. I choked on my own breath.

I felt incapable. I felt weak. I was mad at my legs and this stupid injury. I was mad at the world because it really makes no sense that my aunt is gone. I miss her. I want her back.

I just want her back.

********

In fourteen days, these same emotions sit waiting for me. It’s not fair my father in law is gone too. I want him back too. I just want them back.

*********

Tonight as I spun with my feet stuck (and sometimes unstuck) to my pedals, I just couldn’t get away. I couldn’t run away. I couldn’t hide. I wanted to unclip (intentionally) and to run out of the room. I want to leave all the feelings of weakness on my bike seat.

I didn’t run. I didn’t hide. And when I walked out of class and gave the instructor a broken smile, he said “you didn’t give up.”

For the next two weeks, I think I need to clip in. I need to keep pedaling. It’s hard. I feel incapable of carrying these feelings. I feel so broken on the inside today. But I’ll keep spinning. And I’ll return to that class and all these feelings until I conquer them.

Perhaps today was the perfect day to stop running.

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I miss her!

Whole Hearted.

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

Over coffee last week, my running coach and I redefined my relationship with running. We chose a new lense for my view of my training plan. I want to run. I need to run. I love to run. But every time I have put on my running shoes lately, I wonder if my run will be a success. I cross my fingers and hope that it turns out to be a good run. Every time I put on my running shoes lately, I feel a little broken.

For the past two years, I have used running to repair the broken things in my life. After having Chet, I used running as a way to reclaim my identity. After I went back to a job I didn’t love, I used running as a way to fix a long work day. After my father-in-law and my aunt passed away, I used running to heal my broken heart. When marriage hits a rough spot, I use running to heal my frustration. When the boys become too much, I use running to fix my sanity. Running has always fixed my broken spots.

As my life heals itself, running has become the broken piece. It’s time to heal my relationship with running.

The only way to heal what is broken is to highlight and enhance all the aspects that I love.

rooted2

Last Thursday, my first run back after my stitches were removed, I joined two friends near and dear to my heart for an evening boardwalk run. We ran our favorite route – over the Rudee Inlet bridge straight into the crowd of tourists on the boardwalk. When our feet hit the boardwalk, it felt like the start of summer. We haven’t done this in two years! Three miles into the run, we made a happy hour pit stop for orange crushes and lots of girl talk. The run back to the car was filled with laughter and happiness.

On Sunday, I headed out for my long run. I headed to my favorite running route. I left my garmin at home. I just ran. I ran the Cape Henry Trail into our State Park to some of my favorite back trails. It’s been a while since my running shoes had real trails underneath them. I ran up and down sand dunes. I ran alongside water. I skipped over tree roots. I don’t know how far I ran or how fast, but when my feet finally hit pavement again I felt like I was flying.

As I ran down the trails, trails that have held so many of my tears and so much of my laughter, I felt myself picking up all the pieces I had left scattered over the years. I ran these trails, the day the world said goodbye to my aunt. In the middle of a winter storm advisor, I found my refuge in the tree-lined path. On these trails, I spent an entire summer running with my friend Heidi as we both tried to figure out how to be new moms again. Every time I ran with a broken heart down these trails, I left some of myself behind. Every time I ran filled with hope, I left some of myself behind.

Sunday’s run was a declaration. Sunday’s run put an end to broken running. Sunday’s run reclaimed my favorite place.

rooted1

There was no stop button to hit when I got back to my car so the run continued. My heart was filled to the brim, and it followed me home.

Last week’s run and all my runs going forward need to be a reflection of my life right now. I’m bring my heart, my whole heart, back to my running. Life is constantly changing. There will be more phases of heart ache, but right now, my whole heart needs a chance to shine. My whole heart needs a chance to run.

rooted

 

 

Carry Me Home

Sunday’s Run Plan: 8-10 miles, race stimulation. Miles 1-4 at a 9:15 pace, miles 5-6 at a 9:00 pace, miles 7-8 at a 8:50 pace, miles 9-10 (if I felt good) at sub 8:50 pace.

This weekend was busy. With tons to juggle (picking up Cole half way from Nashville, bringing him home, and Easter), my real objective for running this week was no stress. If I ran five miles, great! Ten miles, great! If I missed it, it wouldn’t impact my next race so no big deal. My coach kept focusing on no stress.

I woke up Sunday morning after hitting snooze a few times at 5:00 am. It was Easter. I wanted to be home when the boys woke up for Easter basket fun. Even closer to my heart was the reminder that today is my aunt’s birthday. Today she would have celebrated her 47th year. I needed to be near the ocean. I needed to see the sunrise.

Sunday’s weather: 50 degrees with 22mph winds coming from the northeast

I didn’t check the weather before I left. I just knew I needed the ocean. I needed the sunrise.

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My plan was to run 3.5 miles north along the ocean. I’d then return and added a bridge crossing on to the end of my run and determine if I was running 8 or 10 miles.

The run north was brutal. I quickly left the boardwalk and ran behind the hotels on Atlantic avenue. It didn’t help much. I braced myself, fought the winds hitting me from the northeast, and ran as fast as I could.

The entire time I was running and fighting the wind, I was fighting my emotions too. I’m sick of being sad. I miss my aunt, but she would yell at me for being sad. She would tell me to lighten up. I fought for 3.5 miles.

9:43

9:41

9:35

The half way point was welcomed. Carry me home wind! It was what I was looking forward to the entire first part of the run. When I turned around, pain shot through my left ankle. It stopped me in my tracks. I think I used all the strength in my left side to fight the winds coming off the ocean.

I walked a few blocks to let it calm down. Panic started to creep in. What if I just set myself back to where I was in February? What if all my slow recovery was just tossed out the window? What if, what if, what if?

As I was having all these thoughts, the sky was coming to life. The earth was waking up. I can’t sit in the middle of these what ifs, this sadness, anymore. In the sixteen months since my aunt and Christian’s dad passed away, I’ve learned that life just keeps going. I’ve learned that it’s easier if I smile along the way.

The pain subsided in my ankle, and I ran again.

9:17

By the time I hit the boardwalk again, my ankle was pain free. My heart ache was gone. The wind was literally carrying me home. I quit thinking. I quit analyzing my feelings. I just existed in the moment. I absorbed the beauty of the sunrise. I embraced the push of the wind.

8:15

7:56

7:38

I got back to my car after seven miles. I decided that was enough for today. I wasn’t willing to risk my ankle by fighting the winds again.

Today’s run: 7 miles in 1:01:08, 8:44 pace

I got back to my car feeling new. My legs were tired. My breathing was labored. But I felt brand new. Something happened in the 3.5 mile journey back to my starting point. Something lifted when my brain finally got quiet. For quite possible the first time, I finished my run feeling complete. I was excited or sad or disappointed. I just felt at ease.

The past sixteen months of heart ache, the last few months of injury and recovery, all of it has taught me that I will make it. If I keep putting one foot in front of the other, if I quiet my brain, if I absorb the beauty of our planet, everything is going to be just fine.

Today’s run quietly healed my heart.

I miss my aunt. That will never change. I still cried a few tears in my husband’s arms when I got home. I celebrated her with a coffee followed by a mimosa. I still really miss her, but I’m starting to feel her in the happy spaces instead of the heartache. I’m starting to smile when I think of her.

My heart feels quiet. It feels at ease.

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Peace Blooms

When Great Trees Fall

~ Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Long Creek Trail
Long Creek Trail

Our hearts were broken this winter. We are patiently waiting for spring. We are existing in the moment when life is about to bloom.

We celebrated our family Easter this morning. It was filled with laughter, but I missed my father-in-law. I kept waiting for my him to sit down to brunch. I craved his basket of Peeps and his story about how they are best in the refrigerator. This afternoon I showed Christian a picture of snow in Saint Louis. He asked if it was my aunt’s photo. The sentence was never finished as he realized my aunt, who live in St. Louis, is no longer here. It wasn’t her photo.

In between those two moments, I ran a handful of miles on the trails today. It rained. It hailed. The air was crisp. Spring is right around the corner, and it will be followed by the heat of summer but right now it is winter. I enjoyed the cool air on my skin.

We are still healing, but with spring a new sense of peace will find our family. Life is being restored. It will never be the same, but we can live better knowing we carry the love of those we lost with us.

The world is waiting to bloom.