I took my sons (17 &19) to yesterday as the last fun mom & sons / brother & brother thing that we do this summer. I really wish it wasn’t that time because my heart is breaking knowing I only have Johnny for one more week. Part of life but one that I just am not adjusting to easily. I hate this time just as much as the first time last year that we left him. Anyway, I thought it would be a great way for me to do something super brave that they would be proud of and something that would give them a morning full of fun that they will talk about. That it will be. It also turned out to be a learning lesson for me as I found out my youngest son James is afraid of stuff in the air that wobbles. He’s my 225 lb gentle giant who has actually zip lined before. John and I surprised him with this because we thought he would love it. He didn’t. He liked the challenges but hated being high in the air on wobbly wires and wooden planks. He did one full course then decided it was more fun to cheer us on from solid ground. I really felt so bad because now it’s only “fun” for two of us and for me it wasn’t so much fun as a sense of accomplishment overcoming my fears to buck up and dig deep for bravery. I wanted the boys to see, and now especially with James on the ground, what it looks like to be so afraid of something and do it anyway. In fact, when we went up on the most challenging course at the end, I heard James say from the ground “if my mother can be brave, I can be brave”! WOW! Very proud of him for attempting another time by himself. He got half way and had to get down but he faced it on his own terms and tried again. Me, I’m just a stubborn Ukraninan but I did it! I Effing Did it!!! I was so scared, I cried at some points, I took deep breaths but I did it. I climbed vertical rope ladders with wooden round rungs that went straight up 5 feet / 10 feet to a platform that was 20 feet in the air. I ziplined 35 feet in the air (thank God for the canopy of trees below that lessened the look of how far up we were). I walked on wires, holding wires, across a span of 20 feet that was 30 feet in the air. I walked across a wire navigating my way around obstacles. It was a day of dusting off muscles in my head that I haven’t really used much…the ones for creative problem solving and concentration to do a challenge while not looking at it which required looking down which I couldn’t do. I sprained my finger on the last challenge because I wrapped my fingers in the nylon strapping that lowered us to the ground. Not a good idea since when it adjusts for your weight and snaps taught it yanked my finger and probably pulled some ligaments in there. That’s what happens when you’re scared. I couldn’t have done it without my sons. I pulled bravery up from somewhere in my gut to be a good life lesson for them. Johnny stayed with me and waited for me at EVERY obstacle. That’s us right there. In this selfie, the only selfie I could manage, we are about 15 or so feet in the air. If you look between us, there’s a wire. THAT was the kind of wires we were holding on to and ALL we had to hold on to most of the obstacles. No safety net, just two industrial hooks only one of which would lock at a time, strapped to your harness. I actually felt safe in the harness. I don’t look afraid here but I was. I just wasn’t looking down because I was distracted by a moment I needed to get for my memories. Johnny was amazing! He told me how every obstacle was designed, the best way to navigate it, how to stay steady and then went first so I could see it done. He’s not afraid. When he got to the other side He fastened himself then turned and encouraged me on. Just looking at him I felt ok. He just kept telling me that I was doing great and he coached me along what seemed like 1,000 yards to the other side of every obstacle. So grateful he helped me and waited for me with a kiss to the forehead and a “good job mama” when I finished each one. James was my safety net. Hearing him tell me that I was doing good, to keep going and that I was almost there was like having a blanket of courage wafting up from below me to help carry me to the other side. It was like a hug from below and it was the thing when I was at the highest point on the course that made me let go of the tree and try again. Yes, I was a tree hugger …literally! At the highest spots I had to hold the tree because the platform wasn’t super big and fear was poking at me big time. What I liked best about hearing James voice was that he knew how afraid I was…he lived it so his words were the words that someone so fearful, like me, neede to hear. He didn’t tell me not to be afraid because he knew I was and that those words wouldn’t help me move on. John didn’t say them either for the same reason. James didn’t say too much that would distract me, just enough for me to be reminded that I could do it. I am sort of happy that he decided the ground was the place for him because I had Johnny up top with me guiding me and helping me and James below me keeping me steady. God I love my sons so! I’m so lucky!!!
Today I am stiff in places that seem hard to believe have muscles, like across my ribs on my back. Not sure I really think about having muscles there but I clearly do and they are letting me know I irritated them with my little overachieving escapade. Many of my invisible muscles are whining today but it feels good when that happens because I worked another set of muscles to stay strong.
So there are things along this journey to being fitter that are kind of like milestones for me. One is pulling on clothes that I like in a size that makes me smile. Another is when your friends or co-workers tell you that you look good which is always nice. One of my favorite all time motivational smile-infusing happiness-creating things that have happened to me is when my kids tell me nice things without trying to make me feel good. Let me explain what I mean by that.
I know that I look good. Good compared to my old self and the healthiest that I’ve ever been. Good is relative I realize because I understand that I am not shaped like Barbie or the tall and skinnies of the world and that is just fine with me. I am happy with the 161 average weight that I seem to hover over these days because I’m muscular and in fact also shorter at 5′ 4″ tall. This means that I tend to grow out instead of up or evenly distributing my ever fluctuating weight because that’s the law of physics. I will never be Jessica Rabbit or have Heidi Klum’s legs sadly. I’m me and I know my boundaries and I’m fine with them. My job is managing all of that within the confines of the fitness routine I put in and keeping it all in check to stay between 150-165 roughly. I am always striving to get to the bottom of that range but truthfully I don’t care if I never see the big one-five-oh again. I work out and I work out pretty regularly, by choice and sometimes twice a day. It’s a little bit of an addiction and definitely a habit for sure. Something I’m just always working on like Mr. Holland’s Opus, just not ever done. I want to live to the crazy age of 96 so this is a good path to help me get there.
Now nothing and I mean nothing means more to me in this world than my kids. It is super important that they are proud of me and want to be with me and talk to me and hug me and hopefully always like my kisses! I hope they always tell me about their days be it good or crappy. I would die if I couldn’t be with and around them. They are just awesome! So, in the flow of two conversations recently, one with each son (19 and 17 respectively), we were discussing super skinny something or other and I said to one son that if whatever the statement were, was true I’d be super skinny. His answer melted me to pause my thought and compose my fast melting self. He said “You are super skinny Mom.” and he kept moving on with his thoughts about whatever it was that we were talking about. He wasn’t looking for accolades or a hug or even a response. It was his honest opinion. PAUSE: my son thinks I’m super skinny! woo hoo! On another day not long thereafter I was talking to the other son about something weight related (not necessarily mine) and whatever I said it prompted him to say “well it’s harder to get any smaller than you Mom, you work out all the time.” and he too proceeded to add to the conversation as if he had just said “the sky is blue”.
There it was again from a different source. From the one who wouldn’t sugar coat something to make you feel good (that’s his father in him). They both simply had said what they believed to be true which was like getting the best race bling ever! For those of you who do not know I am a medal whore. I Race for the prize because why should I not be rewarded for running for 2+ hours right? As I reflected on these thoughts that my sons had about me, it occurred to me that I have reached a personal milestone in my healthy lifestyle endeavor in this life. I have achieved the admiration of my kids who are proud of me for all this crazy hard work that I do. It’s become so much a part of who I now am that they don’t question it as being Mom’s new workout habit but more like part of what their Mom does. Some mom’s garden (I do that too) and some Moms do crafts and some Moms drive trucks. My kid’s Mom cooks great meals, sings new words to old songs, runs in the rain, would do anything for her kids to be happy and she also does fitness and that’s cool to them. I couldn’t have gotten two better compliments in the world than those two matter of fact statements made in passing by my sons.
Well, that was longer than expected but sometimes they are. Remember that there are those moments that tell you that you’ve arrived that you have to cherish and lock away for the days where you feel like you aren’t doing anything right. They are the moments that motivate us and push us to strive for more every day.
Progress is slow it’s as simple as that. As much as we would like to see results right away it just can’t happen that fast unless you’re Mama June and even that took time. I’ve been taking progress pictures of myself since November and some of them look like I’ve made good progress and others just don’t look different at all. Some days I wonder how I can do more. Other days I try to switch it up so I am doing some different things so my body is confused and doesn’t get complacent. Then there are days where I wonder why I do all that I do because let’s face it, I’m 48 and probably not turning too many heads any longer. I mean I look nice outside thanks to hair dye and makeup and staying fit. Clothes hide cellulite and sometimes bulges in bad spots so to see me with clothes on is sort of an unfair picture. I’m not complaining at all because I know how I feel and in fact still hear from people that are impressed with how I do look. It’s the bathroom mirror that bothers me and all the work that I do that isn’t doing enough that can sometimes be a downer. My answer to myself is if you want it, work harder. That really is the answer that I need to own if I want it bad enough. I want it but I’m not willing to really do a ton more than I am because I care about good health and feeling good, which I am in and do, over trying to look like someone that I’m not. Even with this realization and understanding I still have the days where I feel defeated. It doesn’t last long because I live with a child fighting the weight and good health battle. When I see her trying so hard right now I remember how far I’ve come and remind myself to appreciate where I’m at and do what I can to support her.
I wrote today’s blog because last night she said sort of jokingly that she wished she could see results in a week. Yeah, don’t we all! That would be great but as we all know, it takes 30 days for you to feel a difference, 60 days to see the difference and 90 days for your friends to see it. That fact is with a LOT of hard work, dedication and determination. It will happen but it just takes time. We have to be patient and do our due diligence to get there plain and simple. I have always believed that you have to want it bad enough to sacrifice all that you need to in order to get it. That is where I find that many people struggle because we have become a society of instant gratification and unwillingness to work hard for what we want. Where there’s a will there’s a way plain and simple, we just need to find it and get it done. Remember to use the 21 /90 rule to cement your commitment and to go from attempting it to in the habit of it to having a new lifestyle that changes your life!
How bad do you want your goals and what do you sacrifice to achieve them?
I finished the book “When Breath Becomes Air” last night which was written by Paul Kalanithi. Paul wrote this book because he found out he had terminal cancer and he wanted to document his journey as he faced his own mortality. He wrote his journey from brilliant Neurosurgeon to Cancer patient. Paul was quite interested in diving into looking death in the eyes and analyzing what death means and looking at it as a process instead of running away from it. It is an honest book that I don’t know as if I could have written in the midst of suffering from Cancer and watching myself wither from health to having people on my death watch just waiting for me to pass to move on. It’s a good read and something that will not leave my mind. You should read it. THIS Ted talk by Lucy Kalanithi is what prompted me to read the book.
I thought about Paul this morning as I headed out to run and I thought about Lucy his widow and Cady his infant daughter who most likely won’t remember her father except in the things her family and her mother share with her. I thought about my own life and thought about how I read and cried through this book and as my legs carried me over my three miles I confirmed with myself that if I face this same kind of decision in my life, I do NOT want to spend time chasing time if the outcome is sure to be finality. I would rather spend my time simply talking to my family, and running, having cookouts and creating memories and laughter than living in a hospital bed. Everyone dies we just don’t know when we’ll die or how. Why worry about it? Every day and moment should be lived to the best of our ability being the best people we can be don’t you think?
I run because I want to be more healthy. I want to be more healthy because I want to live as long of a life free from canes or adult diapers and medications as I can. I started off running to run away from life’s problems. I ran to save myself from deep dark places that the anti-depression commercials talk about. I ran not to look forward but to not look back. Things are much better now for me and I am probably the happiest I’ve ever been since getting married. I now appreciate meaning in life and the joys that my family brings me, especially my children as they head into adulthood. I now run to be able to have as many tomorrows as I can and to “experience” every day rather than just living every day. Lucy and Paul “experienced” life and looked at life in a really analytical way both in life and through and during death. Running saved me and has taught me to really appreciate and experience most everything. Running has become the glue that keeps me sane, lets me analyze things so I can better understand them more like Paul and Lucy do. Running lets me reflect on things that have happened and what my takeaways are a lot like Lucy and Paul did as they applied the lessons they were learning through their difficult journey through Paul’s illness.
It’s books like this that make me a better human who appreciates the important things in life over skimming through each day blindly, and it’s running that has allowed me to take all those moments and push them forward to tomorrow and the next days to come. Life, like running has good days and bad, joy and pain, frustrations and memories, positives and negatives. We should know what we want from both, have goals for both, give mindful thought to the moments and milestones that we experience during both.
Today is my last day here in VA. No running as my body and legs are tired from 5 days of straight running over hills. I need a rest and it will actually be two days since tomorrow I’ll be on the stupid train all day. As sad as it always makes me to leave, I look forward to going home. As I sit here I’m thinking about the things I’ll miss most it occurs to me just how many things I’ll miss.
- Morning coffee. Morning coffee is my favorite thing about VA as the first thing I do. At home I get up and the day starts, shopping or work it doesn’t matter, I jump right in. Here I sit and drink a cup of coffee which is best when enjoyed on the front porch when the weather cooperates. I guess you love the things you can’t do daily which is why they call it vacation. Morning coffee is what gets me out of bed before I miss it. I’ve always been an early riser which I wouldn’t change for anything. I love experiencing the morning quiet before the world gets up to call on me.
- The train. As much as I hate it, there’s a little charm about the stupid train that passes by several times a night. I’ll miss that in a weird sort of way.
- My Family. Leaving is always hard because I have to leave my family. My distance and length of time between visits enhances the small changes in my family that although nominal to their everyday lives is huge to me since I don’t see them everyday. My parents age and how they are slowing down. That makes me sad because I’m far away and my sister gets all that responsibility on her shoulders on top of her own life. That’s a lot to take on but I try to remember that they chose to come here and I don’t live here so it’s something we all just accept as the way it is because it is.
- My sister. I miss my sister. She isn’t physically well. She has many health issues that are a result of decisions she’s made in her life that are just consequences of her decisions. Everyone makes decisions that have consequences that we live with. I worry about her every day and fear that she too will fall into illness and I’ll be too far away to help. My choice to stay in MA. She has a much harder life than I do and is so much better of a person than me in many ways. We are very different and our distance magnifies our differences. I miss her strength and how she is as sarcastic as I am. She always makes me laugh and I admire the strength she has in making her life go and in taking care of my parents. She is one of the bravest people I know and fears nothing on this planet. She tackles things I would call my husband or a professional to do and never says “I can’t”. I love her can do attitude and love it when I hear her talk about doing things that amaze me like they are nothing at all.
- The air. I will miss the wonderful fresh air here. No smog, no pollution or exhaust smell from the highway.
- The vastly expansive rolling hills. Rolling green hills that go on for miles and miles are as peaceful and beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen. It’s what I see when I close my eyes and think about the next time I will be able to come here.
I will miss many things and those things are the things that always call to me the next time I book a seat on that train for the long ride down. I have enjoyed my visit here and am thankful that I can afford to continue to come down to visit while my parents are still here. I am a lucky woman in the best ways someone can be happy.
Day 4 in the backwoods of VA and it finally arrived. My threshold for when I start to miss my family. I love it here because it’s serene and beautiful and it’s the only time i will spend with my parents and sister perhaps for another year. Life is busy and I come as often as I can but it’s starting to feel like a lifetime between visits now that my dad is getting older. I knew it would eventually show up, tugging at my heart at some point making me homesick for the things that keep me busy, drive me crazy and helped prompt me to come down in the first place. I love my life and all the craziness it brings but sometimes I just want to get away from it so I can’t do it. So I have to do nothing but sit and reflect on it. Maybe it’s God’s way of giving me perspective and appreciation for those things so that I don’t become bitter or obsessive in a bad way. Maybe I needed a break, in fact I know I did. My son’s Eagle project is making me mad and I’m too involved. Time to step away Brenna. Maybe I came because my father has been diagnosed with the onset of Dementia and I want to spend some time with all his quirky annoying habits while he remembers me. Maybe I just miss my mother and my sister. Either way I’m here again and happy to be so. I’m enjoying it but home is now calling. Four days in and now I’m waking up in the middle of the night texting them that I miss them and lying awake wishing I could hug them. I especially miss my sons, James in particular because I can’t talk to him or text him so there’s just nothing there. He’s away with the Scouts and they aren’t allowed electronics during their trips so it’s like going cold turkey with him and I’m not a fan. I think about all of them on my peaceful runs every morning, hoping they have happy days and good experiences. I talk to my daughter and husband every day which is comforting. I started off thinking about my life during my morning runs on these quiet roads but now in just these few days it’s drifted to thoughts of my wonderful family and about how much I love and now miss each of them. Well, I suppose if I didn’t think about them or miss them that would be a different problem that would need solving. Perhaps I could work that out on the road too as I have worked so many things through out there. I feel like I can solve anything by just throwing my running shoes on and heading out for a nice long run. They weren’t kidding when they came up with the slogan that running is cheaper than therapy! The great road is wise and strong and comforting for me and as I have many times I will step out there seeking it’s solace to self medicate through running. As much as I like the peaceful roads of VA I will be happy to once again to be on the rural roads of Mass. I love running no matter where I am.
Today I am grateful for this…my sons in my house. My oldest is on my couch and my other son is sitting hanging out . Johnny started college in September and lives away and I miss him a lot. James i get to see every day and that is wonderful. I took this picture initially because I was so happy to be able to see them together all comfy on my couches but then it dawned on me that I should be grateful for another reason on this day. It occurred to me that my son is home. He didn’t enlist so he was never really away but as I enjoy him being home and my other son sitting next to him some mothers don’t get that today. Some miss their sons as they are away and some miss their babies who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I am so lucky and so grateful. As I sit here eating my banana and drinking my coffee with the ability to do whatever I want today, I say Thank You to all the veterans alive today and those passed on for sacrificing so I may sit here enjoying my sons and the semblance of my normalcy and happiness in a free world of this great nation. As I ran today I ran further than my normal 3 miles as a little sacrifice. It was only 4 so nothing amazing but it was hilly so it felt like a sacrifice I guess. I thought about those who couldn’t run today and ran for them. I thought about those who make my world free and ran in thanks and smiled knowing that I was going home to see my sons and that freedom doesn’t come cheap to others who provide it to me. I am the luckiest person in the world right now.