“You don’t know it yet, but one day you will reach a low you never knew existed and you will lose yourself. Getting yourself back again will be one of the hardest seasons of your life. But, spoiler alert! – you DO get yourself back, you DO make it in the end, and you become so much stronger. So, KEEP GOING! For all the times you hit bottom, there are a thousand times that prove you don’t belong there.”
– Stephanie Bennett-Henry
It has been four years since the beginning of the end for me – putting my faith in this world to do the right thing, believing that it all works out in the end, that the truth would be heard, and justice would prevail. But the truth is, this world is not just, it’s not fair, and “truth” is just an illusion that blurs its lines in the minds of those who choose to lie, conceal critical details, and erase evidence in an effort to write an opposing version of the same story.
The choice was mine – and I chose to give my power to those whom I thought I could trust. In the end, I lost more than just my faith – I lost myself… and it’s been one hell of a journey towards getting ME back – but I did. I made it. And I’ve learned some valuable lessons about faith, trust, karma, and the power of our own minds in regards to holding us captive or setting us free.
Not all burdens are yours to carry. Be wise in deciding which ones you choose to pick up – and be even more diligent when deciding, at what point, you need to simply put them back down.💙
“There are losses that rearrange the world. Deaths that change the way you see everything, grief that tears everything down. Pain that transports you to an entirely different universe, even while everyone else thinks nothing has really changed.” — Megan Devine
It all comes down to this.
“One half of one second.”
If ANY of the factors that came into play that day had afforded just ONE HALF of ONE SECOND, the vehicle that you & dad had been driving in would have been able to safely clear that intersection without impact.
Just ONE HALF of ONE SECOND and we would not have had to sit in that courtroom for an entire week ripping open these wounds and bleeding publicly for all to see.
Just ONE HALF of ONE SECOND and you & dad would still be alive today – preparing to celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary next year.
Just ONE HALF of ONE SECOND.
A fraction of a second – now feels frozen in time. Just one half of one second; yet it took your lives, and stole the breath from mine.
Mama, it was you, yourself, who taught me that the highest form of intelligence is kindness and that the greatest form of love is forgiveness.
I hope that someday I can forgive him – but, more than this, I hope that one day he truly realizes the magnitude of what he has done here and, when that happens, I hope he can somehow find a way to forgive himself.
At 11:46 a.m., on October 26th, 2017, the 9-1-1 call went out for a motor vehicle crach – car versus a tanker truck.
The emergency response was impeccable. The first units arrived on scene in a matter of minutes – two minutes, to be exact.
My parents were pronounced dead at the scene and, just like that, everything changed.
Just like any other family in this world, we were far from “perfect”. We didn’t always see eye to eye and, as my sister and I grew up, moved away and began to establish our own lives and families, we came to disagree on a whole lot more in Life. But, no matter what, we knew we were loved – and if ever we were in need, our parents were just a phone call or a quick 2-hour drive away.
That’s really no consolation to me now though… now that they’re gone – because here I am, left with all the things I needed say while they were alive; all the things I should have said, but didn’t say, because I was too stubborn to reach out.
I can even recall a conversation I had with my friend Joe, just a couple months before my parents died – he urged me to make amends with my father over an argument we’d had the last time we’d seen each other. I assured him that I had tried, but that my dad was too stubborn to listen to what I had to say.
“He doesn’t want to hear it. It’s his way or no way.”, I told Joe when he practically begged me to try again.
“You think you have time,” he said, “but one day your time will run out.”
Little did I know, our time was going to run out much sooner than I ever could have anticipated.
So what DO we do with all the things we need to say to someone we’ll never see again?
I’m still figuring this one out but, if you’re reading this and it reminds you of someone in your own life with whom you have unspoken words, I urge you not to put it off any longer. Pay them a visit, give them a call… even a hand written letter or long-winded text message typed straight from your heart is better than allowing time to pass with all of your unspoken words.
Take it from me. Please learn from my mistakes. Say what you need to say – and say it TODAY, because “things happen”, and they happen so fast.
It occurred to me this morning, while speaking with a friend, that we don’t often talk about moments like this.
Moments when we turn down invitations, ignore calls and texts, put off our adult responsibilities and “to-do” lists in exchange for a cup of coffee, a warm blanket, and a Saturday morning full of silence, sleep, or “NetFlix & Chill”. 🙃
But moments like these are so important.
These are the moments that help to keep us sane in a world that seems to have gone crazy. These are the moments that help us recharge our human “batteries” in a world that constantly seeks to drain them. These are the moments that we pour into ourselves rather than pouring ourselves into others.
I think that sometimes we don’t talk about these moments because we feel guilty for saying “No” to others. We feel selfish or lazy for not being productive and doing things that inarguably need done in exchange for doing nothing. I feel these things too but, I assure you, that THIS is not doing “nothing”.
I have come to find, after traveling a long, hard road myself, that THESE MOMENTS are the ones that keep me active, engaged, and productive in all other areas and moments in my Life!
You, me, and so many other people like us want to, even in just some small way, help “save the world” …but what good are we at helping others if we can’t even take care of ourselves?
Rule #1 is any emergency situation is to make sure YOU, yourself, are okay – then, and only then, are you encouraged to reach out and help others.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says.”
This most famous quote occurred to me recently, as I was preparing to skydive again for the very first time since injuring myself back in June of this year.
My counselor and I have had discussions in the past about the many similarities between grief, fear, and excitement in regards to the way these emotions physically manifest in our bodies.
October, in general, always brings up a lot of emotions in me and, this year, I have been doing my best to acknowledge them – but not drown in them, like before.
It’s crazy to think about how out of control we generally are when it comes to the things that happen to us, but how – just like facing my fear of falling from great heights by skydiving, we are completely in control of how we choose to respond to these things, and are, therefore, completely in control of IF and HOW we allow such things affect us.
Anxiety, grief, fear… they do feel very much the same in the heat of the moment, – but, also, very much the same as excitement, exhilaration and euphoria. The biggest difference lies in how we choose to perceive them.
This part is so very important, because how we choose to interpret our emotions has such a monumental impact on us, mentally and physically – especially longterm. This truth has never been more apparent to me than it is right now.
I have put forth such strong effort and done so much work this past year, in an attempt to heal from all that has happened in my life – the loss of my parents, the unexpected death of my partner, the suicide of my friend, debilitating panic attacks and P.T.S.D. that brought my nearly 20 year career as a Paramedic to its early and untimely end. It’s a lot – but running has helped, as has skydiving.
My experiences with skydiving haven’t always been “Blue Skies” and bright smiles. Even aside from the incident that resulted in my injuries, I experienced multiple “bumps in the road” as I attempted to obtain my license. Most significantly, was how my mind and body instinctually responded to the overstimulation of all its senses – it literally shut down.
My brain would literally disconnect itself in an unconscious attempt to protect my body from feeling that level of fear again. I know this now, only after reviewing the videos taken during my Coach and Instructor jumps.
At the time, I was “blissfully” unaware, not realizing the chunks of time (and altitude!) I was losing in these lapses in reality. Once I discovered this disconnect, I became even more afraid. Consciously afraid. Terrified, to be honest. I let it consume me for days, weeks, perhaps even a whole month, and allowed it to negatively impact my performance, resulting in several difficult jumps. In essence, I literally became my own problem.
I believed I couldn’t trust myself and, when you’re freefalling through the sky with no one else around, you have got to be able to trust yourself. You have got to be able to fully function, pull your chute, steer your canopy, problem solve through any issues, and be prepared to save yourself.
It took the words of a wise man and Master AFF Instructor to help snap me out of it:
“This sport is about moving on. If things aren’t going well and you can’t make the split second decision to move on, this sport is not for you.
I know you’re scared – but you have got to get over it.”
– Craig Cushing (“Cush”)
Simple, right? Really, it is… if you’re willing to realize and accept responsibility – and, most importantly, get out of your own way.
This realization came to me on a low jump when I was struggling with how to maintain stability in freefall. I was still spinning when the time came for me to pull my chute. I reached back, tried to pull, but it wouldn’t budge. My heart began to race. I tried again – it wouldn’t budge. I was losing altitude fast and knew that, if I was unsuccessful again, I would have to make the decision to cut away and deploy my reserve. I tried a third time and, while it didn’t deploy, I felt it shift. I was beginning to panic but knew I could get it if I just tried once more – but I had to act fast. My body felt like it was on fire, everything in my vision turned white and, in my frantic decision to try a fourth and final pull, I nearly reached with BOTH of my hands to give it all I’ve got! This change in body position would have quickly flipped me over onto my back, creating an even bigger issue when my parachute deployed. I caught my mistake just in time, but closed my eyes and tucked my chin as I successfully deployed my parachute. My body was still freefall spinning at the time, which resulted in line twists all the way down to the base of my neck. When this happened and I realized my predicament, all of the sudden, there was calm!
Pure silence and utter calm.
All the details of the jump, in regards to my exit and freefall skills, no longer mattered. I took a deep breath and looked around. I now had just one job to do – clear my lines in order to steer and land, or make a timely decision that it can’t be done by cutting away and deploying my reserve.
In telling this story, even my closest friends shake their heads. “And this is why I don’t skydive.”, they say… and what a shame, I think to myself, that simply because something might go wrong, they choose not to experience one of the most incredible and soul freeing experiences humanly possible.
“Fear”, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While fear is, inarguably, one of the most powerful of human emotions, it is a normal response that has kept the human race alive through its entire history. This response can be paralyzing for some, while others can learn to be super efficient and effective with this response. So, why – if you can learn to manage your fear – would you want to stagnate and remain a victim to it?
Anger, frustration, fear, and other “negative emotions” are all part of the human experience. They can all lead to stress and are often seen as emotions to be avoided, ignored, or otherwise disavowed, but they can actually be healthy to experience – if we’d simply choose to manage them rather than denying them.
Now, I get it – skydiving isn’t for everyone, and I am certainly no expert it psychology, but there are so many other ways that we can learn to increase positive emotional states and personal resilience in response to stress and feelings of negativity so that these emotions no longer consume us or feel as overwhelming. This is where a trained counselor or therapist can be such a beneficial thing! They can help us navigate our emotions, get to the root of our triggers, initiate the healing process, and enable us to pave our own way towards living a healthier, happier life.
While I, myself, am still a work in progress, becoming aware of my own perceptions has truly been the key. Where, once, the physical sensations of fear would paralyze me, I am now able to remain in motion, analyzing and deciding – and then choosing a better way. I am no longer a slave to my circumstances, I am the “master of my soul”.
“OUT OF THE NIGHT THAT COVERS ME, BLACK AS THE PIT FROM POLE TO POLE, I THANK WHATEVER GODS MAY BE FOR MY UNCONQUERABLE SOUL.
IN THE FELL CLUTCH OF CIRCUMSTANCE I HAVE NOT WINCED NOR CRIED ALOUD. UNDER THE BLUDGEONINGS OF CHANCE MY HEAD IS BLOODY, BUT UNBOWED.
BEYOND THIS PLACE OF WRATH AND TEARS LOOMS BUT THE HORROR OF THE SHADE, AND YET THE MENACE OF THE YEARS FINDS AND SHALL FIND ME UNAFRAID.
IT MATTERS NOT HOW STRAIT THE GATE, HOW CHARGED WITH PUNISHMENTS THE SCROLL, I AM THE MASTER OF MY FATE, I AM THE CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL!”
“Your life is made of two dates and a dash.Make the most of the dash.” – Linda Ellis, “The Dash”.
When I first started writing this blog, my primary focus was on the documentation of my running. Through the years, however, it has really become more about Life… well – Life, Death, and everything in between.
Isn’t it funny how, when speaking in terms of a Runner, a Race Time is really just a numerical documentation of how long it took them to make it from Point A at the Start, to Point B at the Finish? Likewise, when looking at the headstone marking my parents grave, beneath each of their names are two dates – their birth dates (START TIME) and the date of their death (FINISH TIME). The dash between these two dates, metaphorically, represents their Lifetime.
To the random person passing by, who happens to take a leisurely glance at that “DASH” – the numbers really don’t mean a thing – because they weren’t a part of it. They weren’t there to see all the things, feel all the feels, or experience any of the emotions or events that unfolded during that span of time. To them, it’s all just a bunch of numbers and, “just a bunch of numbers”, could never tell the story of what they represent.
But I was there. The numbers surrounding the dash inscribed upon my parents grave tells me so many stories, brings back so many memories, and overwhelms me with so many emotions – good, bad, and everything in between; but what I notice most of all right now is just how short that “dash” really is. While anyone who “does the math” would agree, their time upon this Earth ended much too soon, I am faced with the reality of just how fast it goes – and sometimes I just can’t believe they are really gone.
Likewise, with my Boston Marathon Finish Time, the numbers, in and of themselves, don’t really matter. Since finishing this incredible race and sporting this iconic jacket, I have been approached by so many people and, after their enthusiastic “Congratulations!”, they almost always follow up with: “What was your time?”. A million bittersweet and beautiful memories come flooding through my mind, overwhelming me with emotions – none, of which, would make any sense or mean so much to them… so I just smile and say, “It was the BEST!” – because, for me, it really was!
For those of you who have followed my “Chasing Boston” journey, and those who have become my friends and family throughout this Life, I thank you! To those of you who personally reached out to me during my “one shining moment”, as I strutted my broken body all the way from Hopkinton to Boston, I can never thank you enough! Your love, support, and encouragement helped me to endure.
The Boston Marathon is a notoriously difficult course, so on raceday (“Marathon Monday)”, the streets along the most challenging portions are lined with people, screaming and cheering – offering any kind of physical, mental, or emotional support any runner might need. For me, however, there were very few people along the way, as I ran this course the Sunday before the “official” race.
It was in these moments when I leaned upon YOU, in spirit, to pull me through. You sent me love. You sent me strength. You sent me the courage and the confidence I needed to keep moving forward. I could feel you with me every step of the way, and it kept me from ever feeling truly “alone” as I made my way towards the realization of my dream.
So now, as my “Chasing Boston” journey comes to an end and I take some time to figure out what’s next for me, I hope that each and every one of you reading this finds something amongst these pages that strikes you – something that comforts you, inspires you, and helps you along your own way.
May you never, ever forget that, (just like in the marathon), although the road may, at times, appear to go on forever – Life is short and time goes by so fast.
Slow yourself down, take a deep breath and a good look around. There is beauty to be found here, if you’d just take the time to truly SEE.
I may not be “Boston Qualified”, but I am “Boston Strong”!
A “Finish Time” can only tell you so much. In fact, a finish time can really only tell you one thing – how long it took a person to get from point A to point B.
The story that those numbers can not relay is known only to the runners, themselves – and that story can be good or bad but, oftentimes, it’s a combination of both.
So let me tell you a little bit about what my Boston Marathon Finish Time does not tell you.
According to the B.A.A. I ran my Boston Marathon today in 5:56:09.
“5:56:09” does not tell you that, for the first time in my life, my struggle was different.
What used to be a mental challenge, this time, was purely physical. This is not to say that I did not become emotional at times, because I did – but never once did I harbor any doubts. You see, while I have “always and no matter what” shown up and run my race, this time I arrived at that Start Line injured, undertrained, inexperienced for the course, and ignorant of its navigational challenges – yet, mentally, I was strong.
It’s a different kind of struggle when, for the very first time, your battle is not inside your own mind – wondering if you can, worrying that you can’t; contemplating and calculating paces and split times, wrestling with fear and doubt – those self-sabotaging thoughts that tell us we’re not good enough, strong enough, fast enough, or worthy enough to even be here.
It’s a different kind of struggle when the pain you feel is not from the depletion of glycogen or the build up of lactic acid, fatiguing your muscles and turning your legs to stone – but from the obvious lack of recovery time, following a significant and painful injury.
It’s a different kind of struggle when the battle you’re fighting is deep within your bones, resonating outward into every fiber of your physical being, crying out with absolute clarity that your body has not yet healed and is completely unprepared for this enormous effort which you are demanding of it today.
It’s a different kind of struggle when, once upon a time, the choice was yours – you could have run forever at this slow of a pace, or you could have chosen to shift gears and crank out a much more “respectable” marathon race pace.
It’s a different kind of struggle when, physically speaking, the 10K mark feels more like the 10th mile, and the 10th mile feels like the 20 – and then, even though you’ve just run 20 miles, it’s still so far away from that Finish Line.
It’s a different kind of struggle when your friends and family text you all along the way, asking how you’re feeling and you reply with absolute honesty:
“Physically: ☠️. Mentally: 💯”.
When what you feel is purely physical stress, it becomes a personal testament as to how much pain you can truly bear in order to succeed in fulfilling your dream.
“When you sign up for a marathon, you’re volunteering to find out: How much hurt can I put myself through? – Be proud of the answer.”
– Des Linden
The 26.2 mile stretch of road from Hopkinton to Boston is long, but never once did I ever feel truly “alone” – and that is something I never will forget.
I’ve come so very far in my “Chasing Boston” journey; I’ve changed a lot along the way.
I no longer feel the need to receive an official invite or any other external validation to prove that I am “worthy” of this. I didn’t do this for the jacket or the medal – those things are just an added bonus. For me, this dream was personal – and, while it didn’t turn out exactly the way I thought that it would, I can honestly say, I have no regrets. In fact, I’ve spent so many years and so many races “Chasing Boston”, I almost forgot what it was like to look around and actually SEE! I almost forgot how good it feels to be able to do this simply for “the love of the run”!
Today, I ran the race that has always meant so much to me. I redefined, for myself, what it means to be “Boston Strong” – and I proved, to myself, that I am so much “more” than I’ve ever believed myself to be.
As this incredible day comes to a close and I am finally able to put my dream to rest, I reaffirm to myself once more that, while I may not be “Boston Qualified”, I am most definitely “Boston Strong”!