Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Planking Strong for Hope

This past weekend I participated in the LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon as a member of Team LIVESTRONG.  I was honored to be asked to serve as the fundraising mentor for this team, which allowed me to get to know many of the runners beforehand.

The stories shared with me were so inspiring.    Many members of the team are cancer survivors - one currently in the middle of his battle.  What can be more inspiring than that?  Really....putting up a courageous battle for your life and WINNING?  Then deciding to tackle a very hilly run of 13.1 or 26.2 miles?  Talk about inspiring!

The weekend was kicked off with a Team brunch and an opportunity to hear Amy Dodson share her incredible story of cancer survival....she is a major cancer warrior in my book.  Amy lost a leg to cancer - as well as survived lung cancer after being given a 10% chance of survival.  She didn't let this stop her...she runs marathons and ultras, competes in triathlons....and at an elite athlete level.  I highly encourage you to read more about her at http://blog.livestrong.org/2010/04/23/amy-dodson-one-leg-one-lung-100-miles/.

Amy Dodson
She talked about her illness being a gift. Without her illness, she wouldn't have discovered her gift of running.

This hit a chord with me. As much as I hate that cancer stole so many of my loved ones, if it weren't for cancer, I wouldn't be involved with LIVESTRONG....and I wouldn't have many of the incredible friends I have....and I wouldn't have started running again.
Livestrong friend and I with Amy after race
Which gets me back to my involvement this weekend.  I raised close to $2,500 for LIVESTRONG by race day....and I'm not done....my goal for the year continues to be $15,000.

Along the way I decided I would "earn" donations by completing a plank at each mile if I raised $1,000.  I participate in the Plank A Day Revolution on Twitter, so I thought it would be a great idea to spread the word about the benefits of planking (strengthening your core and back - something runners are very much lacking in and creates injuries) while having fun raising money for LIVESTRONG.

Mission accomplished.  A bit to easily I may add.  I still had 45 days until the race and needed to come up with something to do for another milestone.  So, I decided I would complete a plank each mile while running in a pink tutu.  Those that know me well, know that although I like to have fun, I am not one to run with a lot of baggage.  I don't race with an ipod and I only carry what can fit in that little zippered pocket on the back of my shorts. Running in a tutu has never been a "bucket-list" item.

I think I set my goal too low...$2,000 for a tutu was easily reached....and I was suddenly on the search for a running tutu.  Glam Runners had just what I needed.  A shout out to them for their fantastic service AND the proceeds from the sales of these tutus goes to Girls on the Run - an organization that provides education and support for healthy living.  So, you donated to LIVESTRONG, which made me purchase a tutu from Glam Runners, who then donated to Girls on the Run......a win/win for everyone!  This was made personally for me, fantastic and quick service.  And, light as can be...not cumbersome at all.  That being said, I'm not going to become a regular tutu runner....unless of course it means more money raised for LIVESTRONG.....and if you'd like me to wear a tutu again, consider making a donation.   Donate to support Barb's LIVESTRONG efforts

One of several run-ins with Bart Yasso...I suspect he thought we were following him we ran into him so often

The weekend was a true LIVESTRONG fix for me....just what I needed.  Being surrounded by others that get it...that have been impacted by cancer and have also decided to turn their passion for running into a personal battle against cancer.  Not to mention having the opportunity to meet and talk with Bart Yasso a few times (he was staying at our hotel), as well as receive a high five from him as I crossed the finish line.

This was not a race for time....certainly not if I planned to plank each mile.  This was the LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon and Half Marathon.  Everyone involved was there because cancer had impacted their life in some way.   Typically, at the Team LIVESTRONG marathon events, we are just a small group among tens of thousands of people.  This weekend, the tens of thousands were all there to run and support LIVESTRONG.

I lined up in the back with a great friend I met during a Chicago Marathon Team LIVESTRONG event - and coincidentally is friends with a friend of mine from grade/high school (small world connections abound in the LIVESTRONG world.  We both were undertrained to push ourselves to the limit for this race for a vairiety of reasons but due to taking time off after fall Team LIVESTRONG marathons.  She agreed to be my "official planking photographer" for no charge at all.

The Tutu Planking for Hope through Austin.....

The pre-race plank warm-up

At the start corral

Mile 11 (no mile marker)
Mile 12 (no mile marker)
At the finish line
 Donate to Barb's LIVESTRONG efforts

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Forget Regret, or Life is Yours to Miss" ~ Jonathan Larson


It is an awful emotion.

I have had lots of obstacles thrown in my path during my lifetime. Obstacles that I had no control over.

Deaths of loved ones - parents, sister, brother-in-law, and my own spouse.  Enduring the fallout of a divorce between my father and step-mother - a woman that treated me as her own child and is the only memory I have of a mother. All obstacles outside my control.

I have no regrets about any of these events.  Sadness from these events however will be with me forever.  But not regret.  With the exception of my mother, due to my age when she passed, I have no regrets about these relationships. I will always miss them.

I still find myself wishing I could pick up the phone to call them.  I still have my brother-in-law's phone number in my contacts. I talked to him a lot after Brian's passing as he and I could relate to how we were both feeling having lost a spouse.  It took me years to not pick-up the phone on a Sunday evening to call my father.

Regret does fill my life though.

Regret for not taking chances;
regret for taking some chances;
regret for sharing too much of myself with others that didn't deserve so much of me;
regret for being too guarded;
regret for not sharing feelings and finding I was too late;
regret for misreading situations;
regret for sharing my feelings other times while misreading situations;
regret for making assumptions.

Regret for standing still for too long and becoming stuck.

Regret for playing it safe and creating a life which brings me little joy on a daily basis.

Regret for letting life slip by.

I am in a bit of a melancholy state at the moment as I sit on a flight returning home from a weekend in Austin, TX.  A weekend surrounded by friends and LIVESTRONG love.  I am excited to see my children but I am not happy about returning to the life I have created for myself.  A life filled with regrets.

I was reminded of these regrets as I sat in the airport and looked around me.  People excited about their adventures, people with loved ones.  Yes, maybe that's how they view me too but doubtful as I spent most of the time fighting back tears. Tears driven from regret.  I realized I have given up on being incredibly happy in my life...although I can be spontaneous, generous and fun-loving, I am not 75% of the time.  25% is not good enough for me....and it should not be for any of us.

The excitement of going to Austin was replaced by an underlying sadness and regret a few weeks ago.

I realized some feelings I had that I should have shared some time ago and made assumptions which I kept to myself.  I finally shared these...and mind you, I didn't share them well. Although I shared them directly with the person involved, I masked them in anger. I recognize that in sharing these too late, and making assumptions I should have asked about, that I have more than likely lost that friendship forever....all because I never confronted emotions....because I played it safe....because I allowed hurt from others to cause me to make assumptions of this person.  A friendship that was incredibly important to me.  A friend that I had a deep connection with.  A friend that can never be replaced.

Regretful.  Sadness for my missed opportunity. Sadness for the emptiness created by the void not having this person as any part of my life.  Regretful.

I am filled with a heavy heart....and the resolution that I will not allow my life to be on hold.

And I refuse to create any more regret.

I am not sure what that will look like, where I will end up, but I can guarantee you, I will be a new and improved me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Don't Put This Babs in a Corner

I survived Valentines Day....also known as Single Awareness Day.

I survived seeing those around me at work get calls to pick up vases of beautiful flowers. I survived relentless love songs on the radio.

Off point here, but can you really love someone like a love song? Exactly what does that mean? I'm curious because it appears to be the only song on a 20 minute rotation.....and as my daughter grows up, I'd like to be able to explain how she is feeling about that cute boy in her class is the same as a love song.

I survived the numerous questions about my Valentine evening plans. I thankfully had some in place and understand it is just a question, but please people....have some empathy and compassion for single people.

I was the recipient of lots of notes from friends that took time to recognize and did not take it for granted that someone was going to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day. A day that unfortunately singles a lot of people out. I am so glad I have surrounded myself with such amazing friends. Many of those I met along the way through LIVESTRONG. The day was made even brighter when I received an email from my LIVESTRONG contact along with a video thanking me for my involvement as a volunteer.

Just simply knowing others were thinking of me made my day fantastic.

I was asked a very interesting question by my daughter a few days ago, and thankfully it didn't involve an explanation for how you love someone like a love song. She was addressing her Valentine cards for her third grade classmates when she asked why her teacher said they had to give cards to every classmate or not participate. "Why wouldn't I want to give one to everyone in my class?"

Amazing. I love the insight of children. She would never dream of excluding anyone....they are her friends and she wants them to all know she cares for them.

That's how I felt today. My friends did not want to exclude me either and as they reached out to their loved ones, they took time to shine down on me as well.

Society on the other hand needs a reminder from the grade school teachers....remember everyone. Create Valentine activities that celebrate the love of friendship, of love lost due to unfortunate circumstances, of those that choose to be single.

The wheels are spinning in my head and I vow to attack this void next year....not sure what it will be....but there will be something for people like me.

And those plans I had tonight? I tagged along as a third wheel with some folks I really didn't know all that well. It was a running group that has included me on their mailing list, yet have never joined them for a run. Some were getting together to go see a comedy show in town. 5 couples (only one I knew from other social circles) and myself. I decided I wasn't going to sit at home alone....not going to keep sitting here waiting for someone to realize how fabulous I am. Nope!! I am going to go to dinners by myself, join groups whether or not I am asked, buy one ticket to concerts, and a large popcorn for myself at the movies.

Will it be fun? I suspect it will not, but sometimes it will. As a matter of fact, tonight was fun....but it was also a little painful....sad and lonely. But I promise you all, that I'm taking on this personal challenge and I will not let cancer "put baby in the corner."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Breaking Point

I know I have been absent.

Honestly, I have been been avoiding writing a post.

Not because I have nothing to say - that day will never come.

Not because I am hiding....well, maybe I am a little

Actually because recently I can't seem to find anything inspiring or positive to write about.

I know, I know....I have lots to be grateful for.

And yes, I know I could be a lot worse off.  What could be so terrible?

Well, I have been at a breaking point.  That point where being happy all the time is taking a toll on me.  Because deep down I am not happy.  And for the last 7 years, I have been putting up this front.

And before anyone gets overly concerned, I am not in any harm.  But, the loneliness is overbearing at times.  The always being needed by others is overbearing.  Please do not get me wrong - I love my kids and I love that they "need" me.....but at times, I need a break.  Just 10 minutes alone.....and without having to pretend to go to the bathroom so I can get that time.  There are plenty of times I wish I could get just a single moment to myself....that there was another adult to help out from time to time.

And I'll be honest with you - (that's silly isn't it....because I'm brutally honest) - I have no sympathy for friends that have two adults and complain about how hard it is.....you DON'T know what it is like....you have no idea.  And for my single divorced friends, I appreciate that you understand how difficult it is to be the one parent available, however, just as I can't possibly understand the intricacies associated with raising kids in a split household....please, do not offer me advice as though my situation is like yours.  It isn't. 

Work is no different.  I love my job and love my employer.  I am extremely appreciative of how flexible my company is to work/life situations and how flexible I can be to my own employees as they deal with personal issues.  However, lately, work has become work.  The moment I arrive to the moment I leave, I am being pulled in a million directions with requests and everyone wants something from me.

So my entire day - between home and work - feels like I am failing.  I am unable to make everyone happy....I am unable to meet the needs of everyone.  And I am unable to find time for a few moments for me.

The worst part - at times (more often than not), an entire day goes by without a care in the world about me from another adult or my children..

Never am I asked "How was your day?" or "What can I do for you?" or "How are you feeling?" or "Wow Mom, you look wiped out."

It gets exhausting.....it gets depressing....it gets lonely.

Sure, if I just jumped in my car and drove away, I know my kids would miss me.  I know they love me.  But sometimes that isn't enough.

And just so you all know....being alone ISN'T always as wonderful as you all think it is.  There is definitely a difference between solitude and loneliness.

We choose to have solitude.  We do not choose to be lonely.

And being lonely isn't something that you can just wave a wand and change.  Those that think you can have never felt real loneliness......7 years of loneliness.

Yes, I have fantastic friends....and I do appreciate each and everyone of you.  But the constant loneliness that permeates my life is not going to go away because I have friends.

It is the intimacy of a relationship.....the having someone really care about you....about wanting to take care of you whether or not you want to be taken care of.....the idea that you are the last thought when they fall asleep and the first though when they wake up....this is what is missing.  It is the happiness that comes from being "needed" by another adult....having someone being a "compliment" to your life. And actually occasionally complimenting you doesn't hurt either.

And please, don't tell me I need to open myself up to the idea of dating.  I have.  You need to have someone interested in dating you to be able to date.

It's a vicious cycle.  The constant being pulled in a million directions.  The rejection.  The loneliness.  The exhaustion of being "up" all the time.

So, there you go.  That is what has been going on with me.  Depressing huh?  But reality.....and more than likely, how most every widow or widower you know has felt at some point in their widowhood.

Follow-up comment ~
Let me add, that this isn't every day.....it ebbs and flows.  There are periods that are just fine then bam....out of nowhere...the breaking point surfaces only to disappear a few hours or a day later.  I am amazed at how many others have shared a similar occurrence with me in the short time this has been posted.  Something that has always surprised me since the first day I began writing RunningStrong for Hope is the number of people out there that "get it."  With each post - whether it be about cancer, running, feelings of widowhood - it has drawn others to me and into my life.  Thank you for all your support and friendship!