Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pain-free...what a concept....

On a Saturday a couple of weeks ago, I ran the farthest I have run since last July, and I ran my fastest per-mile time ever. No, don't ask me for the numbers. They are NOT impressive in the world of runners. They are only important to me, as I work up from "I can't do this", to "I think I can, I think I can..." 

I ran pain-free, and that’s the part that got me thinking.  But first, you need the backstory.

Last Spring, in my "Before" life, I started training for a half-marathon for the first time in my life. I had never been a runner in my life. I was eager and had no idea what I was doing.

I ran too fast, too often, too long.  I paid no attention to form, or working up my mileage slowly, or running only every OTHER day,  and within about 6 weeks, I was in such pain that I couldn’t make it through even a mile.  It turned out that I had a stress fracture in my heel, achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and pain in my hips and knees. 

And I couldn’t fix it on my own.  It wasn’t enough to simply focus on form, cut back the miles, walk more and run less, stretch, do exercises, use various muscle rubs,  wear different shoes, buy expensive inserts... although I did all those things.  So, I went to a sports-medicine doctor who x-rayed my painful foot and gave me the news:

I had to give up on running.  Period.  For six weeks. 

But I just couldn’t let go of my plan to run my first-ever half-marathon, so I discovered cross-training:   I hobbled to the pool, wearing a boot-cast, strapped on my waterproof iPod and my float belt and I jogged in the water. I looked ridiculous. I really missed running, but there was no way that I could continue to run, even if I'd been given the all-clear. It just plain hurt too much.  

And one day I decided to hop on my bike (leaving my boot cast at home) and try riding along the miles of trails around here. Even though my bike at the time was the wrong size, too small, I knew within just a couple of miles that I had discovered a brand-new love. I LOVED riding my bike ! ( Very soon after that realization, I bought myself a right-sized bike, and we have been together ever since.  )

As the race day drew nearer,and my six-week forced rest ended, I hobbled through short, easy walk/runs, and continued to ride my bike and water jog.  I really wasn’t healed all the way, though. It still hurt like crazy. On race day,  I ran those 13.1 miles and finished with a big smile, but I was in an awful lot of pain.  That was July 29th, 2012.

 I hadn't run more than a few steps (ok, one 5K with my kiddo in November) until just 2 months ago. 

But my recent Saturday run showed me definitively that time away has healed my messed-up feet, ankles, knees and hips, and as long as I take it easy and follow all the rules I’ve now learned about how to do this right, I think I’ll continue to run better and better.  

On Saturday’s run, as I revelled in how much better it is to run pain-free, I was struck by the parallel to another area of my life where I’m inexperienced, did things wrong, and now I'm hurting: relationships.

Yes, I KNOW it’s too soon. I know that by whatever "Rules" are out there on this subject, I probably should not have been dating so soon after Andre's death, but again... I'm breaking rules in my search for my new life. It's been a difficult and very lonely 18 years of being Andre's wife and keeper, and I am longing to finally be loved, and be in love. 

And I know it's too soon.  

I can know that, intellectually, and still not experience that to be true, just like I knew, intellectually, that I needed to be careful about training to run a half-marathon, but it didn’t stop me from doing what I felt somehow compelled to do, and I made some really dumb mistakes that got me hurt.

Feeling like I needed to "sneak" the beginning of my new life, but also feeling a bit defiant of “what everybody will think”, I stuck a toe in the waters of dating, and I met someone pretty special in late November.  

However I was not prepared for how intense things could get, after being so lonely for so long. (Ok, bring out the chorus of "DUH !!!!" )  Starting in January, things started to go badly, get worse from there, and there's just too much pain in that situation for me to keep "running" there.

And as much as we both wish that we could just “cut back the miles a little” or “run a little slower”... Or, in relationship language, be "just friends”, I can’t do that.  There are stress fractures in my soul at the moment, and as long as I keep trying to run in that relationship, I’m just adding deeper pain to my life. 

My pain-free 5.5 miles has helped me realize that only way to someday run pain-free is to stop running completely, in this relationship, to shake hands or hug, and walk away with grace and a smile (even if the tears are flowing). There are a couple of loose ends to wrap up soon, but that's what I know I have to do.

I'm hoping that there’s a bit of life-cross-training of some kind that will put me in touch with that “new love” that I found in riding my bike while race-cross-training.

Or maybe I just have to wear my “boot cast” on my heart and get used to the idea of being alone.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped-for; the conviction of things not yet seen"  (Hebrews 11, v. 1)

So, while I take the time for my stress-fractured heart to heal, I will continue to lace up my sneakers and put in my careful miles of training toward the big race in June (If you haven't visited my fundraising page for the American Brain Tumor Association and my run in the San Francisco Half Marathon, now would be a good time..click here. ) , and I'll just have to keep trusting in what I do not see yet. 

I'll see you on the running paths and bike trails... I'll be the one who looks like she's running in slow motion, getting passed by the kids on tricycles.


And sometimes, I have to admit, I'm not always the "Little Engine That Could"... the "I think I can, I think I can..." girl. Sometimes, I'm more like this one:  

There goes my G- rating for this blog... Some strong language might offend sensitive viewers.  Sorry, y'all. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Half Out of the Middle, and other crimes

"So, are you still sleeping on the same side of the bed, or have you moved to the middle?" 

Sometimes, it takes a 20+ year old movie to get me thinking about how I'm living my life right now.

Last Sunday afternoon, right after church, I declared, "I need a nap.", and I went upstairs, shut the door, turned on my laptop and watched,  When Harry Met Sally   for the first time, all the way through, without interruption.  (If you've lived under a rock even longer than I have, and have no idea what this movie is about, click here for a synopsis.)  When Harry and Sally are still in their "friends" stage, while they are each still grieving the break-ups of their relationships with their respective partners, Harry asks Sally, 

"So, are you still sleeping on the same side of the bed, or have you moved to the middle?

And Sally says that she's moved to the middle.  Harry agonizes that he's still sleeping on his original side of the bed, and that he feels weird if even his leg moves across the middle line.  

Until very recently, I was just like Harry, sleeping only on "my" side.  In fact, I hadn't even been un-making that side of the bed.  Don't ask me why.  It was just instinctive.  That had been Andre's side of the bed. It never occurred to me to claim it.  

And no, this isn't really a meditation on my bedroom.  As usual, it's another instance of something small, something mundane and concrete that gets me thinking about something bigger.  Interestingly, in my eagerness to re-decorate and change the master bedroom in the days and weeks right after Andre's death, I knew I had to make changes that would interrupt the constant re-runs of the horror movie in my head or I'd never be able to sleep in the room again, but I was also rather worried that somehow, I was making the room "too" mine, doing too many things according to only my tastes, and feeling like I should be deferring to someone, even though I knew that Andre was gone. 

About a week ago, I had a dream that has stayed with me.  Andre was in it, as he sometimes is, and that, in itself, is usually upsetting.  This one, though was memorably upsetting because of what he was doing.  He was, with the help of the husband of one of my dear friends, filling-up my house with junk; Andre's junk, computer parts and bits of household hardware, boxes of old textbooks, childhood tchotckes, car-parts, the very junk that I have spent months clearing out, throwing out, donating, boxing-up, trying to sell-off!  And the other man was helping Andre fill-up my house with this crap by BUYING more of it on the internet and having it shipped to my house.  In this dream, I felt powerless to stop them.  It was just the way it had always been:  it just wasn't my choice about what came in, what was spent, and where the stuff piled up.  

 I'm not an expert when it comes to interpreting dreams, but this one felt like it was sending a clear message:  It's time to stop letting Andre, or my memories of Andre, or any other person, fill up MY house, my heart, the house of my spirit, with unwanted "stuff". 

 Not only am I free to sprawl across any part of my king-sized bed (notice I said "my", not "our") that I want, I am also free to begin choosing what stays and what goes from my life, regardless of what the "rules" used to be.

Recently, I challenged an old rule that went something like this:

All house-fixes related to aesthetics are simply TOO impossible and cannot be accomplished without weeks or months of "thinking about it",multiple discussions of why it just can't be done, and then, perhaps a martyrdom operation in which the original single-item task turns into multiple, complicated processes with 100-year-engineering built in, along with several trips to the hardware store, and possibly one to the emergency room, and no further aesthetic input allowed.

In violation of that rule, one afternoon, I looked at my front entryway, and decided that although I'd been told that it was "impossible" to have a small lamp and a small table in the entryway because we HAD to keep a really ugly 1930's vanity there, AND there was simply NO WAY that an extension cord could be tacked along a baseboard to an outlet on another wall... too complicated, too impossible... it was time to have that entry the way I wanted.
  •  one trip to the thrift shop to donate the ugly mirrored vanity, 
  • one trip to the hardware store for a couple of needed items, 
  • one trip to TJMaxx for a lamp, 
  • a little time spent crawling along the baseboard with some cable tacks and double-sided tape... and voila!  rule broken.  No trips to the emergency room.  No martyrdom, and nothing bolted to the wall with 80-lb capacity molly bolts, centered precisely using four kinds of levels... RULE BROKEN
And shortly after that, I decided that I was fed up with having nothing but salvage-area computers with antiquated software that couldn't stream Netflix or use Skype or stream Pandora, so I broke this rule:

Under NO circumstances are new computers to be purchased.  New computers are full of suspicious things like versions of Windows that are younger than our oldest child, and possibly have things like webcams and disc-burners built in.  This can't be good.  Boneyard computers, frankensteined from parts and pieces, and loaded with versions of software that can't be purchased or supported anywhere are the only options. 

You see, in order for me to have been able to watch When Harry Met Sally in the quiet of MY room, it required that I have a new laptop, not one constructed from bits and pieces, not running a bootlegged copy of an out-dated operating system... Yup, I actually bought myself a new computer 2 weeks ago, but it took two weeks to realize why I was feeling haunted by doing so.  I'd broken a rule.  You see how it starts?  I break a rule by buying myself a computer, unassisted by an "expert", I watch a movie I never could have sneaked time for in my old life, I hear a question that gets me thinking, and before you know it, the rules are being broken all over the place, and I'm writing about it to an audience of who knows who.  Who knows where it will stop.  Oh, and I bought the computer with a portion of the proceeds of the sale of one of Andre's guns. (Yet another rule broken.)  How's that for a trade?  A bit of paranoia and death sold-off to a collector in Tennessee, in exchange for a bit of life and laughter that I purchased for myself.

The dream (well, waking it up from it, anyway), my realization that I could indeed  "take my half out of the middle" of my king-sized bed, my adventures in decorating, and my heedless foray into the trackless jungles of Windows 8 are all wobbly-kneed moments of realizing over and over, and sometimes with tears, that I am freer than I realize.

And I am definitely wobbly: just like the day after Andre's memorial service when I removed my wedding rings, just like the day I spent with a dear friend, cleaning out Andre's clothes closet and emptying his dresser.  I'm free, but I'm unused to being this free, and it's a little scary and a little lonely.  There are times when I am holding in one hand the memory of how awful it was to live in the prison that was my marriage, and weighing it against strange comfort of the predictable, if confining and painful security of my previous life.  It's in those moments, I feel like that character from another movie, The Shawshank Redemption, the character who simply can't handle freedom after being in prison for so long, and eventually returns. I think there have been some times lately when I've wished for a way to return.  

I won't return, though, not to that life, and I know that eventually I will learn to live here on the outside, and learn to revel in my freedom.

For now, I'll start with moving ALL the pillow shams, and turning down the WHOLE edge of the covers, and climbing into the middle of my king-sized bed.

To sleep, perchance to dream... I'm hoping the dreams get better from here.