11/2 – Thankful for Humility, Sacrifice, Patience and Pain

11/2: Thankful for the life lessons that require humility, sacrifice, patience and pain. It is through those lessons that I’m reminded of the blessings that I take for granted. *Without a test, there is no testimony!*

Running The Race Against Myself

On Thanksgiving morning I silenced my biggest critic by doing something I was told that I could/would never do; and who doesn’t love a good ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ moment?!? Unfortunately this accomplishment was bittersweet. The accomplishment: running in cold weather and running long distances straight. Why was this a bittersweet moment? The critic…… was me. For years I have held myself back by saying that I’m not a runner, that I could never run in cold weather, that I could never run long distances, etc. I came up with all kinds of reasons why I wasn’t a runner.

In May 2010 I signed up for a beginners running program and as a result, ran my first 5K that October. I ran the entire 3.2 miles thanks to the help and support of my running partner Allyson. Allyson was the person that motivated me to join the same program that she had previously completed. It was Allyson that offered to run with me during the race and it was Allyson that ran by my side the entire time making sure I was ok, pushing me when I wanted to stop. I have a picture of the two of us crossing the finish line with her hand on my shoulder, it was definitely a picture perfect finish.

After that race I ran one, maybe two more times but stopped because the weather was considerably colder and I had always had difficulty breathing in ‘cold’ weather (the coldest I had run in was 70 degrees *_*). I ran during lunch for a few weeks in January 2011 while I had a free pass to a YMCA. After that, I didn’t run again until March. That was short lived and I didn’t run again until October when I joined the local chapter of Black Girls Run (www.BlackGirlsRun.com). Since then I have pushed myself (with the strong encouragement and support of the ladies in my group and one of my best friends, Rhadi) to do things I have previously said I could/would never do when it comes to running.

After a 3 week hiatus (and being called out for my absence by one of my BGR sisters, Tonya), I ran with the group and later that night I put a post on Facebook asking my friends who wanted to join me for a run Thanksgiving morning. One of my BGR sisters, Ericka suggested I join the ladies that were planning to run one of the Turkey Trots. So at 10pm that Wednesday night I decided to run my first 8K.

Thanksgiving morning I woke up excited about the challenge of completing an 8K and with the intention of running the entire 5 miles. I got dressed in layers, grabbed my MP3 player, cell phone, chap stick and headed to meet the rest of the crew. When I got out the car it was 40 degrees…. and the self doubt automatically began. In my head I was telling myself that I wasn’t going to be able to run the entire race because my lungs weren’t conditioned to run in that weather.

I met up with the BGR crew that was there for the race, including Marleenee who came just to cheer us on and take pictures, and as a group we made our way to the starting line. As I looked amongst our group and the crowd of people in their coordinated attire with ‘runner’s bodies’, I again began to doubt myself. Clearly I was making assumptions based on appearance but I reminded myself that I’m an inconsistent runner that hadn’t trained for this event, so running the entire race wasn’t physically possible.

The gun sounded, I crossed the starting line, started my stopwatch and began the race against my biggest competition, my mind. My only game plan was to run my race and not worry about the pace of the other thousands of runners around me. I didn’t know the route of the race but had overheard that there were a few hills. 😦 There were a few moments that were tough but I pushed through and quickly overcame the slightly difficult moments, especially those damn hills. At one point I could hear my friend Rhadi’s voice in my head saying “I shouldn’t want this for you more than you want this for yourself.” (Mind you he has never said those words to me, but that is definitely something he would say!!) Go figure the race ended on a hill, but as soon as I saw the word FINISH, tears began to gather in my eyes. They weren’t tears of joy or excitement but tears of saddness and disappointment. Sad because I have been my own bully; disappointed that it took 1:03:24 to discover that I don’t give myself enough credit for my own strength and abilities.

The last 3 words of my Facebook status before heading to the race says it all and will be my reminder:

In 2009 I remember thinking people were crazy for running races Thanksgiving morning. May 2010 I started running. Thanksgiving 2011 I’m crashing a Turkey Trot. Simply put, I AM EVOLUTION!!!!
My next milestone…running a half marathon in March. SEE YOU AT THE FINISH LINE!!!!

The Bittersweet Side of Friendship

Hearing the words, “it looks like we’re moving to New York” were some of the most stinging words I’ve heard in my life. I felt a pain in my gut and my eyes instantly filled with tears (as they are as I’m typing this and just as they do just about every time I think about this). These were the words my best friend shared as she told a few of us the news about a great career opportunity. It truly is a wonderful job and I am sincerely happy for her and feel that she, her family and New York are a good fit. But of course there is the selfish, emotional side that thinks of……me.

We have both endured very personal highs and lows over the past few years, and although one of us was directly impacted, the other emotionally absorbed a little of each experience. With this situation it is twofold, I can’t deny the tremendous and well deserved opportunity this is for her and her family, but I can’t ignore the pain this is causing me.
I know she will be a phone call, text message, email and short plane ride away, but there is something about being able to ‘lay eyes and hands on (not in the Biblical sense)’ someone; that is a luxury I won’t have with ease anymore. I know that giving into my feelings of grief only cheats me of the few days I have before she moves so I will try to focus on being in the moment for any time we have in each others presence before she leaves.

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few years it is the priceless value of true friendship and a conversation over drinks with her was the catalyst for me realizing this. It was a very candid conversation about friendships and the lack of support at times when friends were needed more during a particular time than ever and I was one of those people. It was definitely a talk that can only be had by true friends where one says to the other, you weren’t there like I needed and that message is received with the same genuine love in which it was delivered. I can say this conversation made me question the ‘friendships’ in my life and more importantly made me evaluate the friend that I was to people. My self evaluation was embarrassing to say the least. I wasn’t proud of the friend I had been to people I claimed to care about. During a recent conversation over dinner with my friend that is moving and another dear friend, I had a minor emotional meltdown while talking about a friend that I miss terribly. He was someone that was always there when I needed him but it was me that placed a wedge between us in attempt to distance myself from him. One of the biggest mistakes of my life. 

The expression says “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”, well I know what I have in her as a friend, which is why this is so emotionally difficult. My plan of action is simple:
– Enjoy every second we have together before she leaves.
– Take plenty of pictures.
– Let the tears flow as needed (I need to try to remember not to wear mascara the day before she leaves). Tears Dry On Their Own (RIP Amy Winehouse)
– Plan trips to New York (awww how miserable for me)
– Appreciate having friendships so lovingly precious that life experiences like these are this painful.

We are Linked in friendship, motherhood and down right fabulousness!!!

The highs and lows of friendship.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything, I’m honored for my many blessings of friendship. Take a few seconds today to reflect on the wonderful friends in your life.

Honoring Your Value Even In The Valley Of Darkness

“Every time you suppress some part of yourself or allow others to play you small, you are in essence ignoring the owner’s manual your Creator gave you and destroying your design.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

It has been a little over six months since my last post and I’m so embarrassed considering the premise behind me starting this blog….making time to do at least two things a day for one’s self.  I have failed miserably at my own challenge.  I will admit that I have thought many times since September about writing but quite honestly the only reason why I haven’t written is because I simply didn’t make the time.  In the past week or so my need to write has become one that I couldn’t ignore and will share about in my next post.  But this post stems from what started out as a simple one sentence email.  The simplicity with which that sentence was structured was a language that I personally connected with, one that I have spoken many times before.  It’s what wasn’t said in those 25 words that I understood.  Prior to the email the sender and I would have been classified more as ‘acquaintances’ because we were connected by a common surface thread, with little personal intimacy.  If you were to ask me about them I would have had nothing but favorable things to say, based on our interactions and I’m sure they would have done the same for me (or at least I would hope so :-D). 

In my reply, I responded to what wasn’t being said with my personal truth.  The details in the series of emails that followed I will not share.  However, one similarity we share is in not adequately valuing our worth.  Quite frankly, there were times when we undersold, mis-marketed, degraded, and underappreciated our own selves.  It wasn’t a planned process, more like a potentially fatal side effect of life that many people experience.  Constantly doing for others (children, spouse, family, friends, etc.), trying to satisfy people’s perception of who we are, and trying to only allow people to see the animated G rated version of what was at times a R rated film.  It took being scared of ourselves because of some thought, action or idea, to realize how deep in the valley of darkness we were. 

But what does not appreciating your value look like?  I’m a very visual person and am able to better understand if I can paint a picture, so as my pastor would say, “walk with me for a little while”…..

Imagine you are teleported directly to the inside of a beautiful home.  The interior is well laid out with just the right amount of space you need.  It is decorated in a style that perfectly suits you and more importantly, it is built on a solid foundation.  Of course there are repairs or changes that need to be made because no house is without flaws, but this house is perfect just for you.  So you decide to see what it looks like on the outside and proceed to walk out into the front yard.  From the street, this property has great curb appeal because of its well manicured lawn, flowers and shrubs that nicely accentuate the yard and the brick exterior of the house is architecturally stunning and very inviting.  As you make your way to the backyard you approach a high, closed wooden fence.  On the other side of this fence, the view in the back isn’t as appealing as the inside and front of the property.  There is a swimming pool that only has about a foot of water that has been polluted by dirt, leaves, fallen branches and old sports balls that were never recovered.  The back of the house is covered in siding with patches of mold and scum.  There is an old car that works when it wants to, even after numerous attempts to make repairs.  On the faded, wooden deck sits patio furniture that is discolored from years sitting in the sun and cushions flattened from trying to provide comfort while people sat.  Towards the back of the yard is a rusty old swing set that looks more like the Tower of Pisa.  And in the far left corner sits a tool shed that is full of stuff that hasn’t been opened in years. 

From the front, this property appears to be worth way more than the appraisal value.  Those items in the back significantly bring down the value of the property.  But, to bring up the property value, the solution seems simple; remove the junk, clean the pool, fix the deck and buy new furniture.  But if you are as emotionally depleted as the pool is drained of water, taking on the much needed task to get things back in order seems like an impossible one to achieve.  So you let things continue to accumulate, adding no value or further bringing down the value. 

The image of this property is what our lives looked like if captured in a picture.  The car was something that at one time was very reliable, got us where we needed to go, had all of the bells and whistles we wanted and kept us safe during our travels.  But after unsuccessful attempts to have it fixed, what is the purpose of keeping it?  Is the physical structure what we’re really holding onto, or is it the memories of what once was and holding out hope that what once was, will again someday be?  If the furniture cushions aren’t providing the support you need, why keep them?  Why keep a non-functioning swing set around?  If it isn’t stable or safe, what purpose does it serve for the children?  The mostly empty pool is an emotional reflection of what is left when you are constantly serving as a filter.  In not wanting the dirty to seep through and be seen by others, you are holding onto all of the grime with minimal amounts of water not being filtered through.  And what about the tool shed that has been closed so long that you don’t even remember what’s inside?  What’s the worst thing that could happen if you took a look inside?  You might find something that once use to be a source of great joy, a project that you started to pass down to your children when they got older or the materials needed to clean and fill the pool with water that will soothe your burning skin on those blistering summer days.  Or you might find the shed is full of worthless junk occupying space that could and should be filled with purposeful things that increase your value.

For some people, it’s not what is behind the fence that is bringing down their value.  Sometimes it’s your neighbor(s).  Neighbors aren’t as easy to manage as guests that you allow/invite into your space.  With guests, you can ask them to leave or just not invite them over again.  Since your neighbor is a fixed part of your neighborhood, you can’t always avoid them, but you can limit your interactions to those random encounters or when absolutely necessary.  Everyone isn’t meant to be in your life forever, and that is ok.  During the course of a friendship/relationship, needs and wants may change.  There are times when an ‘inventory’ needs to occur so that you can identify and properly classify those top shelf people in your life down to the daily house specials. 

People pay millions of dollars for materialistic objects that sometimes sit behind glass or on a wall and literally do nothing.  It’s sad that some of us don’t recognize or forget the priceless value for the unique, one of a kind, original that is us.

“If you really put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.” ~ Unknown

The Weight of The Mask

The poem below, “We Wear The Mask”, by the great Paul Laurence Dunbar speaks to the life that millions of us live everyday.  When we wake up in the morning we throw on our Put On a Happy Face Mask to hide the frowns that our hearts and souls actually wear.  Many of the things we do aren’t for ourselves, but for other people.  So as not to disappoint those people or burn bridges we do everything we can to please others, even when it is in direct conflict with our own souls.

We make decisions based on what we think other people will think of us.  What is really disappointing is how we allow ourselves to be so burdened by what other people think that we continue to add layers to the ones that already exist.  But at some point the weight of the mask becomes so heavy that we can’t even keep our head up.  The mask breaks our back and is sometimes so thick that it is suffocating.

But why, why do we wear masks?  Is it too difficult to be ok with doing what we know is right for us?  Are we trying to protect and repair a broken heart?  Is it that our pride won’t let us admit when we’re wrong?  We try so hard to sculpt an image of ourself that we think others want to see that when we look in the mirror, we don’t even recognize the image standing before our eyes.  Why do we feel guilty when we say no to people?  Just because we don’t win, does it mean that all of the achievements we accomplished in the race are null and void?  And why is it not ok to stop?  People give great respect to athletes who retire early because of physical injury suffered ‘on the battlefield’.  But for those of us whose playing fields aren’t marked in yards, with free throw lanes or home plates, we’re given a badge of shame, rather than a celebratory parade when we want to leave the field because of injuries.  I can already hear someone saying, “quitters never win”.  But remember, some people suffer career ending,  life threatening or even fatal injuries while people from the sidelines are still pushing them to stay in the fight not knowing the full extent of ones injuries.

As a child, we want to make our parents proud and live up to their expectations, regardless of our age.  As a sibling, we want to be the positive example by which they follow.  As a significant other, we want to be all they need.  As a parent, we want to express to our children the love we have for them, which really is indescribable and unmeasurable.  As a friend, we want to be the safe haven they know is always available where they won’t be judged.  As a co-worker/employee/employer, we want to be viewed as the biggest team player/captain/manager.   And those are all of the smiley faced versions of those masks, of course there is a sad faced version for each one.

While we are holding up the masks that we think others want to see, underneath are the masks that more honestly reflect the person we are.  There is the Mask of Uncontrollable Tears that is trying to shed the pain and hurt that we are supposed to be ‘strong enough’ to not let bother us.  The Mask of the Flame Juggler worried about being able to pull everything off, safely and successfully.  The Mask of  Fear.  The Mask of Shame.  The Mask of Apathy, sometimes you just don’t give a damn and are ok with that.  The Mask of Insecurity, which is probably the biggest, ugliest and heaviest mask we wear.  We all want to be good enough, liked, loved and accepted, but are so busy seeking those things from other people, that we fail to realize that we can’t convincingly sell a product we really don’t believe in.

And no, all of the masks we wear aren’t weight bearing.  It’s just that so often we say, ‘if they really knew me’ or worse, think that who we are doesn’t deserve to be seen by the world.

So my challenge to you……wear your masks with pride.  Be comfortable with the masks that are yours and ok with throwing away the ones that really don’t belong to you.  You’ll find the load is lighter and much easier to carry.  Most importantly, wear the masks that reflect who you are so that the image staring back at you in the mirror is a familiar one.

We Wear The Mask – Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Milestones and Memories

Let me just say that this post is a break from the ‘norm’ in terms of what this site is about.  But I am going to take my challenge and do something for myself…make this completely about me and share my emotions.

The last fifteen hours I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster.  I’ve had friends lose a child and another lose a mother. I’ve spent the last few weeks getting ready for my son to start kindergarten and tomorrow is the big day.  Today has been difficult hurting for my friends while being excited for my son.  Their loss and my child’s milestone aren’t connected, but I can’t help but feel somewhat guilty in enjoying my child’s high while friends are suffering the most severe pain I can imagine. 

Not to de-sensitize their tragedies, but for my child’s sake I have to treat this like it would be no different than if I had a bad day at work.  I can’t let it take away from celebrating and providing the emotional energies that this major milestone, more importantly he, deserves. 

Our bedtime ritual always includes some dialogue and usually some silly play with tickling and being silly.  Just before I lay him down to sleep, I sing a song that I have sung since he was a newborn.  Tonight was no different except for the surge of emotions that I experienced while on the second verse.  As I looked into his eyes, I became so emotionally choked up that I could no longer sing, and as if he knew I needed him to ‘pick up Mommy’s slack’ he picked up right where I left off and sang until the last word where I joined him in finishing the song.  While gazing into his eyes and thinking about how hard it is to believe that we are on the eve of his first day of Kindergarten, I realized; my child was going to sleep my baby, but would be waking up my little man. 

Today, I’ve done a great deal of crying.  Crying with tears of bittersweet joy about my child starting Kindergarten and crying with tears of pain for the loss my friends are experiencing.  Before each of us goes to sleep tonight, I’m sure we’ll shed a few more tears or possibly cry ourselves to sleep.  

Tomorrow, I look forward to walking my child to the intersection of a new path in his life.  I can’t/won’t always be there to tell him which direction to take or when to slow down and re-energize, or speed up and get to the next mile marker.  But what I will do is be the best training coach.  When his shoes become worn, I’ll help him find the right shoe so that he is properly supported.  When he becomes dehydrated, I’ll make sure he has the fluids to keep his system in balance and when his energy stores become low, I’ll provide the fuel he needs to keep going.  It goes without saying that I will always be the loudest fan with the biggest signs cheering him on along the way.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…..”

Goodnight my baby.