Saturday, April 15, 2017

Recalculating



By those who've known me best through my 34 years of livin', I’ve been well-known for doing some pretty unexpected things and ending up in abnormal circumstances . In fact, my sister, Kristin, has given these things done and circumstances a collective title, referred to as my “flighty” moments. She will often preface stories on these “flighty” moments with, “You gotta be careful; she’ll catch you by surprise!” since I tend to be a pretty serious, responsible, and logical person, or I at least try to be. With that said, these unexpected moments of flight are often ridiculous, sometimes dangerous, usually (at my expense) hilarious, and best of all, very memorable. They also tend to include my sister, as we’ve been confused as twins throughout our entire life and are much more similar than we are dissimilar; it is fair to say that she is my “flighty” partner in crime. From getting lost in parking garages, talking too long to strangers, sled riding down hills with holes, getting SCREAMED at by military police for enthusiastically standing in the street of Pennsylvania Avenue while the President of the United States is driving through, there are enough stories of our "flighty" moments to cover a 1,000 page book!  One of my favorite of these moments, which happens to be incredibly relevant as I’m reflecting on recent events, occurred during a late winter weekend in 2013 when she and I decided to visit our baby brother in college. While on our very familiar drive, we were so caught up in conversation (about teaching, of course) that we drove a good hour on the wrong highway without realizing it. It wasn’t until we were at an unfamiliar rest stop that we discovered our mistake on one of the SIMPLEST drives through Ohio that we’d made many times throughout our life. Fortunately, there was no need to panic, as we had GPS on our phones, and thanks to its help, we were able to navigate our way back on the right road. This required driving all the way across the state of Ohio on back roads, with trust that the GPS knew more than we did and that it’d help us get to where we needed to go. So, with extra time on our hands, we just kept chatting away, laughing at our scenic route of the most rural places in Ohio, promising to keep this “flighty” moment a secret from my brother-in-law, who’s come to expect something ridiculous to happen when the two of us are left to ourselves. It took WAY longer than we anticipated, but we eventually made our way to our destination and had a super fun night celebrating our baby brother’s last year of college.

JP's graduation 2013 following our travel mishap; couldn't find any pics from "that" weekend, but this pic very well captures "us."
Twinning at the Nike Women's Half Marathon in 2013 following our Presidential security scolding.

While walking through Target on my spring break a few weeks back, I came across some nice, cozy patio chairs that were on sale for just $19.99. I pulled one off the shelf, sat on it, and immediately envisioned myself sitting happy on my patio, with a book in hand and peace in my soul. I eagerly popped it in my cart, and merrily headed for the cashier to make the purchase. While walking to my car, I suddenly realized I didn’t take into account that it didn’t fold, it wasn’t compact, and therefore might not fit in my car. And, well, you guessed it: it didn’t. And, YEP, you better believe this was definitely one of those “flighty” moments. Despite turning it in every possible way, attempting to shove it through my side door and into my trunk, it just wouldn’t fit. Not willing to give up just yet, I thought long and hard about the likelihood of it falling out of my car as it dangled from my trunk on my short, but bumpy five minute drive home. And as I stood there, pensive and carefully observing the situation I had at hand, I heard giggling from across the parking lot. I took a quick glance over, and confirmed that YEP, I had an audience of people laughing at me. In attempt to save myself from ending up on a meme on Instagram, I took the chair out of my trunk and popped it back into the cart, pushed it back into the store all the while laughing to myself for being a complete MORON, and returned the beautiful, cozy, happy patio chair to Target. 

Unwilling to let this incident hold me back from enjoying the sunshine on my pretty patio on this particular day, I decided to settle for my good ol’ fold-up lawn chair that hasn’t moved from the back of my car since the Fourth of July fireworks. And, as I stepped on to my patio floor, book in hand and engaged in deep thought about God knows what, I turned my ankle. I was struck, AGAIN, by yet another “flighty” moment; I honestly have no clue how I did it. A disgusting sound, best described as “Grrrrrrrrrrsh” accompanied the turn, and so I fearfully placed my foot steady on the ground to assess the damage. Fortunately, there was no pain and after a little panic that evening, by the next morning I had completely forgot about it. Without thought of my ankle, I did a comfortable tempo run, feeling confident in my progress and energized knowing week 5 was almost in the books. That evening, however, while in the shower I noticed a huge lump on my ankle. Despite no pain, my ankle was very swollen. Fortunately, it was my left ankle and not the ankle that had been previously injured, but needless to say I was worried and held off from running for a few days. I had the Tow Path Half Marathon penciled in on my schedule for the following week, but with potential for injury always at the forefront of my mind, I had held out registering for it. I figured my best bet would be to wait until the very last minute to register, and if it happened to sell out, then I was to trust that not running the race was to be my fate.

Legit cankle...
As the days progressed, the swelling didn’t get worse, but it also didn’t get better. There was no pain, so I had difficulty making a decision on what to do next. This indecisiveness brought with it a great deal of anxiety and negativity, as I was struggling internally and beating myself up over what I did, a stupid turn of an ankle, a “flighty” moment, to potentially throw away weeks of solid work. Plus, I couldn’t’ figure out if I was I being overcautious, or if there truly was something else brewing underneath the surface. I decided I was being overcautious, and registered for the Tow Path Half Marathon just in time for the online registration deadline. Unsure if it was the right choice, I decided to put the decision in God’s hands and wasn’t going to let it occupy my train of thought for the remainder of the week. And it didn’t. I attended a beautiful, heart-warming school event that filled me with more joy than fathomable on Thursday, had a random snow day that enabled me to get ahead on school work on Friday, and a day filled with QT with family and friends on Saturday, best of all concluded with Jesus, as I was able to make the vigil for the Palm Sunday Mass that night. Life was very, VERY good, but by the time Sunday morning rolled around, I felt like I’d been on such an emotional rollercoaster over the week I couldn’t focus on the race if I tried. And, well, if there is one word I could use to describe my experience it would be just that: unfocused.

SO, as you may already know from my social media posts last week, the Tow Path Half Marathon was a huge bust for me (read here:Tow Path Half Marathon 2017). It was probably the biggest bust since the Columbus Marathon of 2012 (read here: Columbus Marathon 2012). Maybe it was my ankle, or should I say "cankle"? Maybe I had a touch of the flu (I learned later my sister’s family had been battling a 24 hour stomach flu)? Maybe I was exhausted? Maybe my head wasn’t in the game? I’m not sure what happened, but I went to bed that Sunday night defeated, frustrated, embarrassed, and incredibly disappointed in myself. I may have my “flighty” moments and accept that as part of who I am and happily find humor in it. However, I most certainly battle a chronic disease, the antagonist of “flighty,” of which many runners and nonrunners alike are afflicted: perfectionism. It is the WORST, and something I’ve struggled with throughout my entire life. The irony of perfectionism is that it is inherently flawed. Ambition, conscientiousness, and determination are positive qualities, but too much of any of those qualities can suck the joy out of the things we do and lead us down a path of selfishness, pride, and perpetual defeat. The truth is, with a perfectionist mindset, enough is never enough; no P.R., medal, or accolade will ever satisfy you. And that’s where I was. Stuck in the tunnel of perfectionism, unable to see the periphery. My plan at that point was to work harder, better, faster, and stronger, just as one of my favorite Daft Punk song goes, confident I could turn this failure into a positive in my 6 weeks left of training. 

When I woke up the following morning, those negative feelings were still brewing in me, and so I decided to take to St. Teresa’s example and to be cheerful even if I didn’t feel it. And in doing so, with each student who came into my classroom, I started to feel better. Soon enough, how I was acting was in fact how I felt, and I was able to see beyond the tunnel of my perfectionism and therefore started to see things with more clarity. By noon, I had made an appointment with my orthopedic doctor for the following Friday. By the afternoon, my ankle was super swollen, and after talking with my colleagues I decided I was definitely out of running for at least the upcoming week. By that night, I was at Fleet Feet buying new shoes, receiving further confirmation that my ankle needed medical attention even if no pain was accompanying the swelling, and  that continuing training would more than likely be detrimental than helpful if I had any plan for racing this spring. And after a date with Chipotle, as I drove home, I thought about my upcoming Eastern European trip in June, how extremely miserable it’d be to be hobbling around in a boot (or worse, CRUTCHES), and I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to be able to run the Cleveland Marathon this spring. My harder, better, faster, and stronger mentality had turned to a mentality of resting, recovering, and healing in less than twenty-four hours, thanks to the guidance of my favorite saint and personal hero, St. Teresa. Fortunately, I hadn’t yet registered for the race with my many concerns of injury, so although stepping away was disappointing, I knew it was the right thing to do. Like the the beautiful, cozy, happy patio chair and my car from a few weeks ago, the Cleveland Marathon simply just doesn't fit for this spring.

Chubby cankle overflow...
 
I love training and all the small goals that come through each workout, so these past 6 weeks do not feel wasted although I’m once again cut short; one of these days, I’ll make it through a spring marathon. I know I am capable of achieving my goal of 3:03:30, but it needs to be when the time is right. I truly thought I could do it this spring and had everything planned to make it happen, but it just isn’t meant to be; I have full faith that He has better things planned for me. Although this quick turn of events has caught me off guard, and it may take me longer than I’d like to reach my goals, I feel like God is just recalculating my path for me. Although it’d be nice to have a GPS to tell us every turn we need to take when we got ourselves lost in the road of life, God doesn’t always work as explicitly as we’d like. We just have to silence our busy minds, pray, and have hope that He’ll be with us as we try to move forward in the right direction, and that if we make a wrong turn, He’ll just recalculate our path for us. All the best things in life, conquering our long, sought after goals, falling in love with the right person, earning respect from people, finding that perfect home, inspiring others to be their best selves, all seem to be linked to a formula beyond reason: they just happen. The only “right” thing we can do is to always have faith, and never, ever stop believing that there is always a silver lining, even if we can’t immediately see it. It’s as simple as that. If we can maintain our faith, when we look back, we will be able to clearly see that hand that got us though the tough times, helped us recalculate, and ultimately led us to the right place; in time, we can see God and understand why life is SO good.

I will be seeing my orthopedic doctor, Dr. Cohn, on Friday, and will let his wisdom guide me forward. If I’m healthy, I still have a chance to at least complete the Cleveland Half Marathon, as I’m in good shape and will have four weeks to train and hang on to (and perhaps improve) my fitness. I spent this past week cross-training, and will likely do the same thing next week. The swelling has gone way down, and I’m fortunately in no pain, so I was hoping to do some light running (no speed work) this week. However, an incident during my attempted run today has me thinking that someone from above is pushing me to hold off until after I see Dr. Cohn. My plan was to do a light, hour easy run late this morning and to see how I held up. I made my way to the Tow Path, did a little stretching, felt good, and was happily trotting on my way. Around mile 2, deep in running thought and feeling great, something jumped up and bit me, right into my left calf, Forrest Gump style. I immediately turned around and saw a woman in bushes; I had been hit by a biker! I’ve run 1,000s of miles over the past ten years and have NEVER been hit by a bike; all circumstances considered, what are the odds of this!?! I ran to her side, and fortunately a man had been riding with her and came to help with the situation. She was shaken and confused, and fortunately unhurt. She said she didn’t see me, that I appeared out of nowhere to her, and I believe her! She didn’t even realize that she had hit me, and fortunately, I just have a few scrapes on my calf from the tires brushing my leg. BUT, it happens to be the same leg as my swollen ankle, and I most certainly do not believe in coincidences. So, once she was back on the bike and was able to ride away, I turned around, made my way back to the parking lot, and called it a run. I was able to get in 30:00, and I feel okay, but I’ll be awaiting an official green light from Dr. Cohn before I move forward from here. I’m not exactly sure what to make of the events of today, but I’m going to err on the side of caution!

The bike crash aftermath. A "brush" with fate?
 
Although the “flighty” part of who I am makes me (and my family) uneasy, it’s just who I am. Perhaps God made me this way to reduce my perfectionism, to help me see the humor and fun in the mundane, to make me more likable, to instill permanent humility in me, to affirm my constant, essential dependence on God in my life. Fr. James Martin, an amazingly brilliant, wise, Jesuit priest and a very real person (and quickly becoming a great role model for me), whose words and insight have helped me better understand and work to build a better relationship with Jesus, said in his book Jesus: The Pilgrimage, “Every day our human nature humbles but does not humiliate us, gently and naturally. No effort or great penances are required for us to experience our limitations and taste our sinfulness, both of which lead us to recognize our constant need for God. Thus it is a grace to know one’s sinfulness.” A flighty perfectionist, always shooting for the stars, constantly falling back to Earth, trying to find God and all the life lessons through it all, and hoping to help others along the way. That is just who I am. :-)

I hope everyone has a beautiful Easter, celebrating the LOVE God has for each and every one of us and His promise of eternal life. And God bless everyone participating in the Boston Marathon this weekend: runners, cheerleaders, workers, and volunteers! May you have a SAFE, wonderful, joyful experience taking part in the greatest marathon in the world!!!

Just bein' me with my very special Godson Luke's on his 4th birthday!



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