A Widow and a Half

Today I ran my second half marathon.  My first half marathon was more than two years ago.  This was my 14th run in 5 months and the first run longer than seven miles since my last half marathon.  Craziness.

What goes through a widow’s head while running 13.1 miles?  Do you really want to know??  It’s not that scary…I promise.  Maybe, just maybe there is something here for you too!

1. Nudge…and get nudged (or in my case, elbowed!)

Jon mentioned this half marathon on five separate occasions.  Each time I looked at him like he had 10 heads.  “A half??  Hello…you know how much I have been able to run recently!”  There was not a 10k option which would have been my go-to challenge in this situation.  On Monday I finally took a look at the run.  Then, thought I couldn’t do it because [insert 100 good reasons here].  Tuesday, I looked at it again and just decided to sign up.  That’s the crazy girl coming out.  I felt the challenge, and honestly, the nudge that I needed to do this for some reason.

The last (and only other time) I ran a half marathon I signed up the week before, and like today, with virtually no training.  My nudge for that one was reading about a man who had been training for the marathon with his wife when she was hit by a driver on one of their final training runs.  He was still going to run. I had no excuse. This woman I had never known had become my nudge. I showed up because I could, and for some reason I felt like I was supporting a fellow widower on his run.

Who have you nudged lately? Have you challenged another person to push their boundaries?

2. List the reasons why you can’t, then do it anyway.

I didn’t write my list this time, but I assure you there was a long one in my head. There were two reasons why I thought I could – one, I had done it before. Two, I know I am healthy enough to walk to the finish line if needed.  I’m one of the lucky ones in life – I don’t have a terminal disease and I’m not disabled. There are no barriers other than the belief in myself.

When I thought about all the reasons why I “should not”, there was this quiet little thought in the corner of my mind that said “I can”. I rarely hear that quiet voice, and yet, it seems to be the one that controls what I actually do – I just need to get to the “do” tipping point.

Once I get to the “do”, that voice that loves to make lists transitions to a list of what I need to do to be successful.  I’m always planning, and planning alternate options. Trust me, my mind is never quiet!  Now, my voice that was negative has turned to an asset – this is why I LOVE the “do”.

3. Set a Goal, then Set a BIGGER one.

This morning I checked all the things off my “do” list then tentatively walked to the start.  With each step I took my mind was virtually screaming “What are we doing?? This is crazy! OMG, this is happening!”

Then I saw the pacers.  “Oh, jeez…there they are. Do I join a group? What group?” I couldn’t remember what I ran last time, but I believe it was right around a 10:35 pace.

I saw the 2:20 group and did the math and figured this would be a stretch goal.  Then I saw the 2:10 group – those that run a 10 minute mile pace.  I’ve run one 10k at a [slightly] less than 10 minute mile pace – not my comfort zone.  BUT for some unknown reason, I kept taking baby steps toward that group.  Then the gun went off – the race was on. I was running with the 2:10 group…what??  I figured I could start there and hope to finish between them and the 2:30 group.  Best case, I could end up with the 2:20 group.

Fast forward to mile 2.  This is when things really got crazy. I saw the mile 2 sign and decided right then that I was not only going to finish with the 2:10 group, I was going to run past them in the last mile. What the…?? Where did this thought come from??  I have no idea, but in that moment I believed I could and I spent the rest of the race staring at their pace sign and seeing it as a big goal bullseye.

I started thinking about all the times I achieved more than I set out to do.  All those times I stretched myself – or others stretched me – and how much more I achieved when I believed in more than I ever thought possible.

When was the last time you set a goal that was so far out there you couldn’t possibly believe you would achieve it? One where you set your sights on the moon, but knew you’d be happy landing among the stars?

My take away from today – set a goal, then set a bigger one.

4. Hills and Butts

I’m not writing this to tell you life was perfect this morning. Some of the hills were killer. What do I do when I have to run hills?  I grab onto a fact – the fact that hills work your butt muscles – and who doesn’t love a nice butt?  That may be too much information, but for me, I have always loved having strong legs.  It may come from my days as a skier, who knows?

In any case, every time I internally groan about a hill my mind is conditioned to think about the benefits of hills – benefits you cannot get from running on flat ground.

Changing my mindset to find the positive in every challenge has helped me immensely in all areas of my life. As a widow, there were (and still are) times where it was hard to just breathe. Then I focus on being thankful that I can breathe, I’m here, and I can breathe, which means I still have time to make a difference in this world.

While I don’t love hills, I do love what they can do for my butt!

5. One foot, and then the other.

There were also times during this run that my mind said that “I couldn’t”. At 0.1 miles I got a side ache.  Really?  I wasn’t even out of the parking lot!  Then I remembered that I just needed to breathe correctly with my steps – and keep taking those steps.

At mile 5 my hip flexors tightened up and my knee started to hurt. I could have stopped to stretch, but I knew if I stopped I would struggle to start again – I’m just not that type of runner.  If I allow myself to give up even a little bit, then I would struggle not to give up more. So I kept going, one step at a time. My music cycled and I focused on the scenery and the beat and kept moving. It worked!

When you don’t know if you can – just keep moving. You will get where you are going faster and be glad you didn’t allow yourself to do less than you were capable of.

6. Be Your Own Biggest Fan.

If you’ve read other blog posts of mine you will know that Steve (my late husband) was my biggest fan. He saw and believed in me more than I ever believed in myself. These last 4 years I’ve had to carry that forward. I fail more than I succeed as a cheerleader, and yet, I still hear him cheering me on. I still see that smile.

Today, I realized that I was truly running for myself. I was the only one with a goal. No one was watching. I could quit and it would mean nothing – other than to me.

Today, I was my own cheerleader. I persevered. I believed. I set big goals. And I reminded myself constantly of what I had accomplished in the run while I was running it. Every hill I ran up I celebrated mentally. Every mile I finished with that 2:10 pace group I considered a win.

I also had this crazy thought at mile 8 – “there’s only 5 miles left!  I can run 5 miles.  I got this!” Never mind that I had already run 8 miles (for only the second time in my life). I was focused on the fact that I knew I could run 5 miles and I wasn’t going to let the past hold me back. When I was finished, I’d appreciate the the entire journey, but in that moment I was laser focused on the belief that I had been here before, and I could do it.

As a widow, there have been times when the “wins” were much smaller. Some days the celebration was the fact that I showered AND put on real clothes (not sweats). Or, I made it through work without crying. Or, I cooked dinner for my daughters. Its all about finding the win.

There are moments in every day for positive self talk. Have you been your biggest fan today?

7. Let the world motivate you

One of the reasons I decided to do this run was to see Winston Salem in a new way. We moved here a few months ago and I know there are so many things that I have not seen. There were beautiful buildings, families cheering each other on, and lets not even talk about running in 50 degree weather in December – pure heaven for someone from North Dakota/Minnesota.

I saw a man that was likely 60+ running in the top 20 of all runners. There was a few obese ladies that were on a journey to get healthy and they were running the half – so cool!  Then there was the person with cerebral palsy going through the course on a hand bike with a person who is obviously one of her biggest fans.

I thought about my friend Anna who loved the YMCA and had lost her very short battle with leukemia earlier this year. This was a YMCA fundraiser to end childhood obesity – maybe she was nudging me as well.

As I ran I was able to appreciate all the beauty that surrounded me in life. It gave me a chance to reflect on just how much good there is in the world if we just choose to look for it.

Life is not easy as a widow, but it wasn’t easy before widowhood either.  There are different challenges (hills) to climb, but those challenges can also be the driving force to do more in life.

This post isn’t written to say that everyone should run a half marathon – and I would certainly NOT recommend trying it without training appropriately.  I do hope this article is a little nudge for you to look at your life a little differently today. Find a challenge, find the beauty, nudge someone. You never know what you can do…until you do.

 

The Myth of Failure – An Open Letter to My Daughters

The Myth of Failure – An Open Letter to My Daughters

Failure is a negative word in our society and I simply don’t believe it should have that failuremuch power. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Failure means that you took a risk to try something new, something different. Failure gives you an opportunity to grow through challenges. I’ve heard a few adults talk about things they won’t do because they are afraid of failing themselves or others. That bothers me. Life is short – live it! 

As a Mom I have a powerful influence over my daughters and their perception of failure. I want to make sure my girls know what failure truly is, and what it is not. I want to make sure I am not the type of person that has children afraid to experience all life has to offer because they are afraid of failing themselves – or worse – me.

My Beautiful Girls,

I hope you read this letter when you are feeling scared, unsure of yourself, unsure of your next steps, or when you just feel like a failure.  I want you to read it – a lot. I hope that as you read this you gain the strength and the courage to take chances in life.  Don’t ever let the fear of failure hold you back.  So many people go through life scared of failure – and they miss out on the greatest parts of being alive.

First, I have to admit something…I have failed.  Many times. I will fail again.  Does this make me a failure?  No!  There are times that I feel like a failure in life, and you will too.  However, I hope in those moments you remember what I say in the rest of this letter.

There are really two different ways to fail at life. 

  1. You fail to try because you are afraid to fail.
  2. You fail because you tried

Girls, if you fail to try because you are afraid to fail, then I have failed you as a parent.

You will fail in life.  No one is perfect.  So what does it really mean to fail?

Failure is…

  • Quitting when you are not the best. Never quit just because something is difficult. Choose to end certain activities because you have found something you are more passionate about.  Prioritizing your life is important – you cannot do it all.  Never quit in frustration – you will get through it, and you will discover some amazing things about yourself at the end of that tunnel.
  • Being scared to love with your entire heart. I am very guilty of this.  Your father gave me the greatest gift I have ever been given – the gift of unconditional love.  He loved me from the beginning of our relationship until the end.  Without question, without doubt.  He loved me at my best, worst, and everywhere in between.  Never settle for less, and never give less.  Yes, you will get hurt by doing this.  It is scary. But loving with anything less than your best-self will only short change you.  Take the risk.
  • Not communicating. When you don’t communicate you don’t give others the chance to help.    I don’t mean whining, complaining, or anger.  I mean the simple act of telling someone how you are feeling, what you would like to change, and what support you need to be successful.  This is another one I am not good at, but I’ve gotten better through writing.  You will find that I write down my biggest challenges and that is OK.  Everyone needs a little help or support sometime.  Find a way that works for you.
  • Pretending to be someone you are not. You do not need to be anyone other than yourself – you are beautiful.  Don’t copy anyone – you can never be a better version of another person.  You were put here on Earth for a reason, never forget that.
  • Lack of kindness. There are mean people in this world.  They are failing themselves, their friends, family, and anyone that has to be around them.  Being mean or negative is VERY easy.  Never take the easy road and always be true to yourself.  Be compassionate toward others and you will find success in all you do.
  • Being scared to fail me. If you take anything away from this, please understand that you will never fail me. Your failure is my failure and I am here to help you through it. I may be disappointed in your decisions, but I also know that you have to make some mistakes to learn. My disappointment will be short-lived and we will look for solutions together. I am your number one fan. I will always love you. Be true to yourself, your morals, and your values.  Don’t ever limit your life because you are afraid to fail me.

Failure is NOT…

Failure is not…Doing your best and not achieving your dream.  This is the old “shoot for the moon and land among the stars” analogy. Dreams change.  Mine have changed so many times in my life it is dizzying.  However, I have always worked towards a dream until I decided that my dreams had changed.  You will live, you will learn, and you will find new passions.  Never be afraid to dream a new dream.  Sometimes you have the choice, sometimes you will be thrust into a new reality that requires you to change your dreams even when you don’t want to.

Failure is not…Final. When (not if) you fail realize that your failure can impact you for any amount of time that you let it.  Don’t let failure stick with you for a long period of time.  Pick yourself up, own up to what happened, and do what you can to correct it.  Then, commit to doing better the next time – there will be a next time!

Failure is not…A reflection of your value as a person. We all fail. You are not defined by your successes or your failures. You are defined by your character, your integrity, and the “how” of your life – not the “what”.  You will be remembered for how you handled the failure not the failure itself.

Failure is not…Defined by anyone other than you. What you see as a failure may be seen as a breakthrough opportunity to another individual.  Be hard enough on yourself so you commit to learning from the event or decision, but don’t be too hard on yourself. How you handle the tough times is a much better judge of character than how you handle the good times.

My greatest failures in life revolve around my fear of being me. I wasn’t true to my character, my values, or who I truly am as a person.  In many cases, I was afraid to fail others and that fear led me to fail myself.

I want you to know you don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers – I will be here for you as you learn, grow, succeed, and fail.  As your mom I will try to protect you even when I can’t, and I will be there to pick you up when you fall.

Finally, when I think about failure I wonder if the things I feel like I fail at today will be relevant at the end of my days. Almost always that answer is NO! Life is the big picture. Be true to you, and you will not fail in life. When I am gone, I hope you can say that I was a good mother that supported you and helped you achieve your dreams – whatever they may be.  I hope people say that I worked hard, but I balanced my life and prioritized my family first. I hope people remember me for the positive impact I had on their life, which means I made a difference to people. If people can say these things about me – then girls, I did not fail in life.

R & K, you make my life worth living and I am blessed to be your mom. We are a team – we will win and lose together many times, but there is no one else on Earth I’d rather have on my team.

I love you,

Mom