Unwrapping Tuesday

In truth, there seems to be very little to be thankful for these days. This year has been a challenging one for my family. Coming up on Christmas, I realize that was the last day that I saw my aunt and cousin last year before they passed away. I don’t even remember saying goodbye. They lived so close I took for granted seeing them again soon. At Thanksgiving this year, it became increasingly apparent that in the next few weeks or months we will say goodbye to another aunt, this time with some warning, but again all too soon. With all of this sadness hanging over the holidays this year, what is there here to be thankful for?

Maybe it is in this, that this time, we have the opportunity to say goodbye. I can send an e-mail to my aunt sharing a song that makes me think of her and brings me comfort and she can write back. My cousins and uncle have had time to prepare. The funeral is largely planned, the eulogies have time to be written, and decisions don’t need to be made in the heat of the moment.

It’s made me think about what a gift time is. Whether Tuesday or any other day, we are all given 24 hours in which to live, 24 hours in which to make the most of each moment. I know it doesn’t mean I won’t fritter away moments here and there, but I am grateful for a greater awareness of the gift I’ve been given in the time that i have.

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Holidays

I had read before that the holidays are a tough season for those who have recently experienced loss. My doctor confirmed that when I saw her shortly after my aunt and cousin passed away. I knew theoretically to be prepared for what this season would hold in store, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this. 

I feel so raw, like the wound caused by these unexpected deaths has not healed one bit since April. Like all the “progress” I made in accepting and coming to terms with our new family life has been ripped away. Like the phone call I received that cold, dark, damp April morning, came again just a few hours ago.

I knew the holidays would be different this year, that despite the 20+ people who usually fill our house at Thanksgiving, we would all be feeling a giant, gaping hole. I knew that Fran would not be here to stir up the usual drama (would she use Stevia as a sweetener??? Oh, the horrors). I knew that Becky would not be here to sit next to me during Trivial Pursuit. I knew that things would be different.

I also knew that my aunt and uncle and their family would likely be in Hamilton this year, and that the years of us all celebrating Thanksgiving together were likely cut short by the ravages of ALS that my aunt is suffering. I knew that the holidays would be different.

When my mom suggested that we all go to Hamilton this year, and my uncle and his remaining family agreed, I too was relieved. Celebrating Thanksgiving at our house would have been too hard this year. The holes would have been too apparent. As it is, I still expect an e-mail from one of them to find its way to my inbox, or a status update to find its way onto my Facebook page. At least if we changed the scenery, the expectations would shift. I didn’t anticipate then this feeling of grief at losing “our” holiday, the holiday that for the last 25-ish years has been celebrated at my parents’ house. It’s one more loss in the midst of a difficult season.

Then too, there are the losses that are sneaking up on me. Christmas, where we might now host the holiday for the first time in 25+ years, or where at the very least we will be somewhere different. Christmas, where it is now possible that only my family will be around to celebrate together, as life has shifted for the rest of the families. Christmas, where my aunts and uncles exchanged gifts, where for the last 15 years we have received carolers from my aunt. There will be no carolers exchanged this year. Christmas, where the cousins spent so many evenings sequestered together on the porch at my aunt and uncle’s house, watching a basketball game, playing Trivial Pursuit (again), or watching episodes of Friends. The porch where the fire started. The porch where the fire started, at the house that no longer exists. The porch where the fire started, at the house that no longer exists, on the property that no longer belongs to the family.

Things are different, and in this case, change is not good. Change is here though, and so in the face of it, the question becomes, how do I find joy, in the midst of a season that seems to be bringing only grief?

Race Day Update

I ran. Not every step, but I ran. About a mile into the run, I was attacked by a killer side stitch. I held it off until about mile 2.9, but then I just could not hold it off any longer. I had to walk. I walked about a tenth of a mile and was able to run the rest, and you know what? I’m happy. Would I have loved to have run that tenth of a mile too? Yes, of course. But the truth of the matter is that I couldn’t. I wasn’t breathing, and it’s hard to run when you can’t breathe. I am of course second guessing myself now, knowing it was only a tenth of a mile, but I have to hang on to what I know is the truth. I ran every step I could. With that, I can be happy.

Race Day

It’s finally race day. I’ve been dreaming of this day since I started running on my first day of summer vacation. It’s been 129 Days since I was a non-runner and I’m more than proud of myself for having made it to this particular morning. I’ve learned a lot about myself since becoming a runner. First of all, I have discipline. For the longest time I didn’t think I did, I was the queen of making plans and then not following them, but it turns out that when I really set my mind to something, I can do it. As I completed each workout of the Couch to 5K program, I was proud of myself. I fed on that pride when it came time to head out the door for my next workout. There were only two workouts that I didn’t make it through over the course of the whole summer. One due to extreme heat and dehydration, and one probably related to the same issues. My rule was that when I didn’t make it through a workout, I didn’t get to take the next day off, I had to go out and run. It turns out that that is incredible motivation when you’re 10 minutes into a 30 minute workout. Who wants to go and do those 10 minutes over again the next day??

Second, I learned that my body is stronger than I thought it was. It turns out I can run. It turns out I can work through pain. It turns out that when I push myself to do something, all of a sudden I am capable of doing things I never thought possible… like riding a bike for 3.5 hours straight when I hadn’t been on a bike in 14 years. (Ok, so I had to ice my quads and take a steady regimen of ibuprofen for two days after that…)

Finally, the lead up to race day has made me more aware of something that I think I always kind of knew. My negative self-talk is almost deafening. Over the last few days I have had dreams of not making it through the race, I have heard myself thinking that I’m not strong enough, that I won’t have the willpower, that I should have trained more. Instead of thinking of all the days that I did train this summer and this fall, or focusing on the fact that when the school year started I still managed to run at least once a week, I’ve found myself focusing on all the times I didn’t run, all the times I should have run, how I am totally not prepared for race day. I am nervous, I’m afraid I won’t make it, I’m afraid I’ll embarrass myself in front of my family, but as I was talking to my dad last night he said something that helped. He told me that it’s not an option not to finish. And I think that’s what I’ll keep in mind today. I’ve worked too hard to not finish. I can’t not finish. Even if I cross the finish line at something that barely qualifies as a run, I will run every step. I will finish the race.