Wednesday evening* I lit candles in memory of the two tiny embryos which slipped from my body nearly 8 years ago. I am far enough away, at this point in my life, from the sorrow and the pain of that immense loss; however, I am mindful, when lighting the twin flames, of the radically different path my life took. For an instant, there was a jangling moment, of “could haves,” and yet in the glow of the dancing light I continue to embrace and celebrate this change in direction.
Acceptance has been a process. It has been a process for which, in my life, running serves as the perfect metaphor. I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons about grieving, rebuilding, laughing, loving, and living while out running these last few years.
Running: Setting a New Course
Running has been an absolute gift, allowing me to discover who I am in another context, and it has been tremendously healing. I signed up for my first 13.5 mile run five years ago when my sister (who had been training) suggested I join her for the Door County Half Marathon.
It was while I was walking the last three miles of that run (I hadn’t trained – signing up out of solidarity) I realized I needed this type of challenge to find out what my body was capable of; I needed to heal my belief in my body, to shift my thinking it was useless in its childless state.
A beautiful run on Saturday, three days after my private ceremony Wednesday evening, provided me with an opportunity to truly celebrate the distance I’ve traveled, in more ways than one. I ran following yellow blazes marking the trail. I leapt over roots and rocks, my mind and feet nimbly navigating the single track of the Ice Age Trail which was the route of the Wisconsin Fall Color Run hosted by Fontana and a fundraiser for the IAT Alliance.
I felt GREAT. I delighted in testing myself against the course – a hilly, 8-mile trail run through the woods and up along the bluffs overlooking Lake Wisconsin and Devil’s Lake. The morning sun broke through the clouds and lit up a stand of trees and the forest glowed, an intense golden, yellow.
Things do get easier.
Admittedly, it took a while to come to terms with my childless state. I made numerous, conscious decisions to be satisfied with the life I was living.
It is a lot like time on the legs, putting in the miles, running; eventually unfathomable distances are normal. It is a wonderful feeling knowing I can show up the morning of an 8-mile event and have a fantastic run without actually “training”, and when my friend Val calls me up to run the Lake Geneva Loop – well, a 20-mile run is completely do-able, even on short notice.
It is a delicious feeling knowing I am content with my life – as it is.
Grieving is a lot like adjusting to trail running; it takes time and effort to move past this stage. The grief was deep and searing, rather like the pain I was in after my first 50K when every muscle ached, sleep was uneasy, and getting out of bed was excruciating. And yet, the very thing I needed to do was move my body – swim in the pool and do some yoga.
Similarly, in spite of my grief, I realized I needed to balance it, by seeking out moments of joy and contentment, the very states of being, I felt resistant to allowing myself to feel.
Be my best self.
Running (and biking) had me stepping up my game in a number of areas of my life: I drink more water and fewer cocktails; I eat better and sleep more; and I’ve discovered first-hand the benefits of a training plan.
This desire to be my best, and do my best while running has shown up in other areas of my life as well: to be at my best as a partner, friend, daughter, aunt, volunteer, business woman, and coach.
No comparing – I run my own race.
I must admit I sulked for a while after I realized I wasn’t going to win an age group award. I ULP’d myself by dwelling on the fact I didn’t get to take home a prize – a plastic cup stuffed with goodies – versus the fact I’d run a fantastic run. A pace of 8.5-minute miles has been previously unheard for me!
Comparison is the number one happiness killer – it is a lesson I must be repeatedly taught. I live my own life; I run my own race.
Live in possibility.
I’ve learned to play the “What If” game: What if … I set a fast pace for myself and don’t burn out before the end; What if … I run up ALL the hills; What if … I pass the 20 something woman I’ve been trailing since the start of the race; What if … I win my age group? Alas, I rarely win my age group, and yet, it is awesome seeing what is possible – yes, it was a woman in her 50s who walked away with the top award, Overall Best Female Runner, with 7.8 minute miles.
What if … I live the most fun, fulfilling life I can possibly live?
And, what about you?
What is your most fun, fulfilling life to live?
What are the lessons and the gifts in your journey?
* Simple and very personal candlelight ceremonies on October 15th were part of the recognition of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month that is October.