I don’t often speak up or write about my marriage. I prefer to keep the most sacred things in my life private. But, through the years, after bearing witness to so many of our own friends’ marriages and/or longterm relationships falling apart, we tend to take notice of what it is that we do differently in order to stay together, living out our own version of “happily ever after”.
One of our most important “secrets” is really quite simple: NEVER STOP DATING THE PERSON YOU’VE MARRIED!
Nearly 20 years ago, my Honey and I had our first “official” date.
In casual conversations and occasional car rides together, Rick had learned of my love of music – particularly 1970’s classic rock bands like The Rolling Stones and The Eagles. So, when The Eagles announced their “Farewell Tour 2003”, my heart sank.
I was a single mother at the time, new to navigating life alone. I was working several jobs for 4 different employers while attending school 3 nights per week and, truth be told, the $300 spent on this pair of tickets was literally 10x the amount of money I had in my bank account at the time.
But Rick knew that I loved The Eagles and, while I honestly never thought I would actually get to see them perform Live, in concert – he surprised me by making it happen!
This year (nearly two decades later!) as The Eagles “Hotel California” tour made its way through Pittsburgh, he did it again!
This is not to say that a happy marriage is dependent upon expensive gifts or elaborate experiences – but rather, in continuing to value each other enough to listen, learn, strive to understand, and never stop looking for ways to show your love.
Once again, in our marriage, that translates into this one very simple, but very important, “secret”:
For the past several years, I’ve relied upon the wisdom of my friend and running Coach – especially when the going gets tough. I may not always like what he has to say, but he has never steered me wrong. With decades of experience, including much of his own trial and error, he has accumulated a wealth of personal and professional wisdom.
Today I picked up my phone to ask him a question even though I was pretty sure I knew what his answer was going to be.
Not surprisingly, I was correct.
The point tonight is a relatively simple one:
Stop overthinking. Just DO…or, in my case, DON’T.
Many of the decisions we make as runners, are things that we drastically overthink while simultaneously underacting upon.
Should I do X or Y? A or B? This or that?
In many cases, the best answer is to simply DO rather than worry about whatever the best answer might be.
For example, let’s say you’re questioning yourself regarding tweaks you feel you need to make to your regular training schedule.
“Instead of doing my long run on Saturday, which I can’t do because of XYZ life thing, do you think it would be ok if I did it on Sunday instead?”
Next thing you know, you’re blowing up your friend/Coach’s phone with a long laundry list of pros/cons between moving the run to Sunday versus getting up at WTF o’Clock on Saturday to get your run done before whatever “life thing” needs your attention.
The honest truth? 99% of the time, it doesn’t even matter. Either option is fine.
Whichever one works better for you, do that.
Instead, we waste our valuable time and energy overthinking the situation. We convince ourselves that maybe we really don’t know what to do after all, and then worry that whatever choice we make is going to be the wrong one.
Stop overthinking. Just do.
You know more than you give yourself credit for, I can promise you that.
Listen to your body. Trust your gut. Stop overthinking. Just DO… or, in my case, DON’T.
I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it’s nice to have someone tell you that you’re overthinking things and you just need to do it. And, in my case, it’s comforting to know that I can rely on Shep to back my decisions, hold me accountable for my actions, as well as, educate me on how to train smarter, rather than harder. In fact, I’ve trained with him for so long that I can already hear his voice inside my head, answering my questions before I even ask them – the text message today was simply a confirmation.
This fall will mark FIVE YEARS since my parents passed away in that car accident. When I say it out loud, it seems so long ago, – but, when I experience moments of missing them, it feels like it all just happened.
I may be mistaken in my analogy here, but I feel like the grief process was almost completely out of my control for the first 3 years. Once the jury trial in August of 2020 came to a close, however, and we were finally able to stop talking about all the gory details, re-living the experience through photos and videos, re-enacting their final moments and the actual cause of their deaths, I was finally able to move forward in making peace with what happened and decide to finally heal.
Yes, you read that right. I made the conscious DECISION to heal – because I finally realized that I didn’t have to suffer anymore, nor did I deserve to endure that emotional burden and pain. Nothing good could come of that, continuing down that path. I had literally walked to the edge of that proverbial cliff… and decided that I didn’t want to jump. And just like that, I made up my mind. It was time to stop making myself suffer.
Do you see what I did there? I took ownership of my feelings, my participation in constantly inflicting emotional pain upon myself and was, therefore, finally able to move beyond it, into the process of healing. There is value in experiencing pain, even repeatedly – because eventually you will realize that it will never change until you take the steps necessary to change it. There is no time limit for how long this cycle will take, and please do not judge yourself or others who are involved in this process, as well, because the emotional pain you (and they) feel is very real. You can not move on from this until you, yourself, are ready.
It has taken me quite a long time, myself. I do not possess any super human strength or special knowledge unbeknownst to the rest of the world. I have simply been challenging my mind to become more aware and capable of processing through emotions without becoming attached to any outcome or allowing myself to become mentally “stuck” by burdening myself with the opinions and viewpoints of others as to how this “should” be done.
I consider myself lucky to have had my sister with me through it all – sharing the impact of this great loss, as well as, all the details and legal processes that followed.
I consider myself lucky to have had my therapist, qualified to counsel me through these tumultuous years – well-versed in mindfulness, qualified in trauma therapy, and so naturally calm and caring.
I consider myself lucky to have had my husband, my team at work, and all of my friends – who love me unconditionally and never see my emotions as weakness but, rather, as proof of my love and a testament to my strength.
I cannot speak for your experiences, nor can I tell you how long your own grief process will last. I can simply share with you my own story, and assure you that you will heal when you are ready to – not when “they” say that you should.
“She’s outgrown a lot of things… shame, guilt, and clipping her wings. Perfection, control, and multi-tasking. Bad habits, resentments and stress. Unresolved relationships, worries and regrets – all the meaninglessness and negative thinking, disappointment, comparison and people pleasing. She’s outgrown a lot of things… and she’s shining more because of it.”
– Tanya Markul
Oftentimes, it’s the story you tell yourself that determines the way in which you move forward. You can either choose to see the negative – or choose to focus on the positive.
Life is all about the silver lining, gleaning pieces of hope from the ash, learning to see any bit of light that protrudes through the darkness.
You’re allowed to grieve and mourn what you have lost – the people, or the places, that have meant so much to you… your childhood, your innocence, your youth – but do not fixate only the negative. You should also see the positives. Maybe, in the losing of these things, you were able to uncover much about yourself, your heart, and the ways in which you’ve always shown up?
The purpose of our journey is to grow, to learn, and to continue stepping into our own power. A big part of that, inevitably, comes from heartbreak – from the moments when you must pick yourself up, dust yourself off, walk away, rebuild, and move on.
It’s taken most of my life to get here. In fact, it’s taken the majority of my life just to realize all of the things that were never really “right” in the first place.
As a child, your family truly is the biggest influence on your perceptions of “reality” and, in the case of my own upbringing, the validity of that reality was never up for discussion, nor was any reality outside of our own to be questioned, explored, or even theorized about – to do so was blasphemy. As a result, I internalized a lot, more than I should have, due to my high level of sensitivity and innocence, as very young, impressionable child.
I learned to assume responsibility in order to keep the peace. I learned to tiptoe around others, make myself small, and apologize for the space that I take up in this world. I learned to blame myself for everything – even things that were never my fault. I learned to bear the burden of issues that a child has no business bearing, and protecting the fate and feelings of others when it was, in fact, myself who should have been the one being protected.
It has taken most of my life to realize that a lot of the guilt that I have carried with me through the years was never my burden to bear. It has taken me years to speak the words out loud: “It’s inot my fault.” – and even longer for me to truly believe it.
Every experience grants you the wisdom needed to move forward and continue constructing the life you desire to live. There is no shortcut, nor any button you can press to magically make everything okay. Life is a journey, and you must venture through it. You will mess up. You will get your heart broken. You will break a few hearts yourself, and that’s okay – it’s your outlook that will make all the difference.
Choose to see your progress, rather than your setbacks. Choose to see your loving ways, rather than another’s inability to accept them. Choose to see your growth, rather than your pain and momentary loss of direction.
I came upon a quote the other day that really resonated with me:
“You handed me emptiness, and yet it was the heaviest weight I had ever held. You gave me the gift of nothing, and yet it was everything that I have ever needed, to truly find myself.”
I won’t lie, the past few years have been rough, but I’m finally starting to love who I’ve become. Sure, my body isn’t as fit or as fast as it used to be, I’m still a little bit broken inside and out, I don’t always recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror… but I know who I am and I’m comfortable in my own skin. I know what I believe in, I no longer settle for less than what I deserve, and my focus will forever more be upon personal growth and continually moving forward. 🌻
“The older we get, the more we need our friends – and the harder it is to keep them.”
– Jennifer Senior
When I was 11 years old, I met my very first “Best Friend”. Ronda & I looked like sisters and very quickly became just as close! We wrote each other notebooks full of letters, chronicling our time apart when we couldn’t be together, and then talked and laughed, rode horses together, and created our own adventures every chance we could get! We experienced puberty together, went “boy crazy” together, and laughed as we talked about holding hands, first kisses and sex – things that neither one of us knew anything about. We’d take turns spending weekends at each other’s houses and one summer, when my mom was admitted to the hospital, I got to live with her, as her family took care of my sister and I. But, as we grew up, we began to drift apart. When we graduated high school, I chose to get married and move away, while she chose to remain single and further her education. But then she met Matt. Suddenly, I wasn’t so “crazy” in her eyes and, as their relationship became more and more serious, she slowly returned to my life, and I really thought we might actually succeed in being “friends forever”. I was honored to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. However, by the time she walked down that aisle, I had become a mother to my newborn daughter and was experiencing things that she had no knowledge of or interest in. The day they said “I do”, she and I, once again, said “Goodbye” – as they moved to Colorado, and I returned back home to Pennsylvania. We wrote letters back and forth for awhile, then emails and the occasional phone call. We’d try to get together whenever she came back home to visit her parents but, gradually and over time, our communication became fewer and farther in between until, eventually, it ceased to exist at all.
As a young mother, at just 19 years of age, I desperately needed a friend. I was fortunate to find her in my sister-in-law, Diana. She was a stay at home mom, fluent in navigating the manipulative behaviors of our mother-in-law, and we quickly became inseparable! Every day we made it our habit to get together, just us and our kids – cooking, cleaning, playing at the park, grocery shopping, or just hanging out, on my couch or hers, watching Disney movies on VHS and stealing snacks from our kids bowls. She was older than me, more experienced in her life as a wife and mother, and she made it a point to be present for every little “growing pain” I ever experienced – my marriage’s first fight, morning sickness and miscarriages, pregnancy problems and the birth and growth of my daughter. If we could not be together, we spoke on the phone – every single day we cracked each other up with all the things we would say and do! But, all of that changed the day I walked away from that toxic marriage and the religion that had ruled our entire lives.
I was 25 years old when I met Tara. It was like meeting “Ronda” all over again – only this time we were older, wilder, and both of us were single! We worked together as E.M.T.’s at a local ambulance service, went out dancing with each other at our favorite nightclub, and frequented each other’s apartments, taking turns supplying the food and/or alcohol. We were good on our own, but considered “dangerous” when we were together. We lived it up while it lasted, but it wasn’t long before I got serious with Rick and she got her heart broken by another man. I enrolled in the Paramedic program while she chose to phase herself out of EMS. She took a temp job with another employer, started DJ’ing nights at a local bar, got casted for small roles in locally filmed movies and, eventually, opened up her own tanning salon. To this day, I still don’t know exactly what happened between us. I saw her at the grocery store late one night and, as I approached, super excited to see her again, she stared coldly straight ahead and walked right by me, as if I didn’t even exist. I tried to call her a few days later, but she didn’t answer. I texted her phone asking what had happened or what I had done because, whatever it was, obviously changed us and I desperately wanted to fix it… but I never received a response.
I was going through boxes of old photos the other day and it made me realize just how many friends have actually come and gone throughout the years – some of them with little, if any, reason or closure.
It’s hard not feel bitter at times, when the memories of being ghosted or rejected come rushing back. Cancelled plans, unspoken words, and unanswered questions still linger inside my mind when I find myself missing them. But, the truth is, people change and, while I was a good friend to all of them, I obviously wasn’t the kind of friend they needed at the time – and that’s okay.
I was supportive, but I wasn’t the kind of supportive that they needed – and that’s okay.
I did so much, but it wasn’t the kind of “much” that they needed – and that’s okay.
When a friend breakup happens, it doesn’t have to be dramatic. It doesn’t have to be all-consuming. It does no good to put the other person down. That kind of resentment will rage inside of you and rot you from the inside-out, so fight the urge if and when it festers up. Learn to say “and that’s okay,” because it also does no good to be wrecked with guilt. It isn’t helpful to put yourself down, or replay scenarios over and over inside your mind.
It is what it is – and that’s okay.
Maybe nobody ever really is “the bad guy”? Maybe nobody is in the wrong and there is no antagonist to the story? Maybe it’s all just a part of life, and the best thing to do is acknowledge that the friendship was mostly a positive thing, come to terms with the fact that their season in your life is over, and walk away still wanting good for yourself and good for the other person – because that’s what true friends do.
Break-ups will almost always make you hurt, but they don’t have to make you hate.
It’s never only about the “win” because, while losses hurt, sometimes we need to feel that pain – it’s what pushes us into something better, shapes us into someone stronger, because when your whole world caves in, and your dreams are crushed, and everything comes crashing down around you, you’ve got to be brave enough to push your way through and come out on top of it all.
I don’t think life is all about winning anyway. The trick is to get knocked down enough that you know what it takes to keep standing – to get back up again, to feel the solitude of your own company, and to have it be enough. To be buried in the burden of it all, and feel the weight of carrying what’s wrong, so that you can appreciate it that much more when it all feels right.
I’ve come a long way in the last 9 months, since suffering significant injuries in a skydiving accident.
I am finally back to running 3 days per week and strength training 2 days per week. I’m holding well to this plan and am on track to increase my body’s strength, tolerance, and recovery time within this next month to accommodate 4 days running and 3 days strength training. That being said, I may have gotten a little ahead of myself this past weekend.
I had what I’d like to call a “breakthrough run” on Saturday morning, logging 7.25 miles effortlessly and without any need for a slow down or a walk break. This is the first time, since sustaining my skydiving injuries, that I have felt this good or performed this well on a run. That being said, I should have known that I was not going to get away with this performance so easily – and it certainly wasn’t long before my body started to talk back, reminding me of all the things that are irreparably different with me this year. Luckily for me, Sunday was my planned rest day.
It’s Monday now and, while I’m feeling much better and am ready and able to do today’s workout at Fit Body Bootcamp, I will definitely be moving slower and focusing most of my attention on maintaining proper form rather than keeping pace with the rest of the class.
I spoke with Shep this morning, too, and while I feel myself resisting his truth, I know that he is right in his advice for me, moving forward – “Take a break before you need it, then you will need less of a break when the going gets tough.”
I need to know when to walk – even though I don’t want to, even when I feel like I don’t have to. It truly is the walk breaks that have built my body back up in strength and endurance. These momentary slow downs are not moments of weakness or failure, as I used to view them – they are actually, in fact, safeguards that allow me to reassess, make corrections to my form, and determine whether the things I am feeling are merely discomfort or are actually crossing into my threshold for pain.
Like Shep’s reasoning to me, earlier this morning – running 7 miles with walk breaks, followed by the ability to run again the very next day is a much better place to be at than running 7 miles with no walk breaks and being in pain or unable to recover for several more days.
If I can manage the limitations of my body throughout my workouts and prevent myself from further injury, then there will be nothing left to hinder my efforts in progressing even further.
That’s what life is really all about anyway – learning to navigate your way through loss, with the undying will to still come out with a win. And, to me, simply having the ability to experience a good run after all that I have been through is, and always will be, my favorite kind of win!
“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.”
I was at a routine dental appointment yesterday and, as the Doctor was being so kind as to adjust (and readjust) the chair for me to accommodate my still painful and still uncomfortable spinal injuries, he happened to ask me: “Are you ready to get back up in the sky this year?”
If you know me, everything in me wanted to scream “Yessss!”, as there is simply NOTHING that could ever compare to the ethereal feeling that skydiving provides… but, instead, I hesitated.
Later that day, I received the news of another skydiving accident involving a member of my skydiving family and, unfortunately, he did not survive. He leaves behind two children.
In this moment, as the reality of this set in, just as in the moment of my own skydiving accident when my body made impact with the ground, time seemed to stand still. I was stunned.
The fragility of Life repeatedly smacks me in the face, time and time again. I am not so ignorant as to believe that we are immortal. Death has impacted my life in more ways than I care to recount anymore, and my own experiences have made me realize that, no matter what we choose to face or take on, we are certainly not invincible either. My own injuries from skydiving being a key example.
The jump that injured me was “perfect” – by far, my best jump yet! However, in the final moments before my feet touched the ground, it all went horribly wrong. I did the best I could, and what I did do quite possibly saved my own life – but it still fractured my spine and shattered my wrist. It changed absolutely every single thing in my life for quite some time afterwards, as I underwent 2 surgeries, 30 scar treatments, and countless hours of physical therapy. My husband had to step up his role as partner, lover, and friend to now encompass personal caregiver responsibilities, as well. He helped bathe me, feed me, dress me, and fix my hair every morning – all while working his own fulltime job and assuming nearly all of the household cooking, cleaning, and shopping responsibilities. My friends and coworkers stepped up, as well, eager to assist in making my recovery process easier… even buttoning my pants after I’d used the restroom because doing so with just one fully functioning hand is most definitely a learned skill! (Go ahead and laugh… but, for me, the reality attached to the remembering of these moments has me far from laughter.)
I consider myself quite lucky. It has been 9 months since my skydiving injuries occurred and I am finally making some real progress in regaining my previous level of physical strength and endurance. I’m finally back in the gym, despite the modifications that my injured body now requires. I am running regularly, as well… not nearly as fast or as far as I once was capable of, but frequent and consistent running, nonetheless. I am able to work, drive, and perform nearly all of my previous activities and responsibilities without significant difficulty and with minimal, if any, assistance. But I still hurt. Every single day has some level of physical pain attached to it. My body will never be the same. I am simply making the best of my new “normal”.
Somedays it gets to me. Somedays I feel frustrated, sad, and even a little bit sorry for myself. No one should ever have to live in pain. But this is the risk we take when deciding upon the interests, hobbies and activities we wish to pursue. And, in skydiving, it’s why you are required to sign a waiver – because things can happen, “up to and including your own death” – and, when they do, they happen so fast.
We all have a choice and we are all free to choose what is worthy of the risks that we take. Skydivers are no exception to this and, in fact, tend to take this truth a bit more seriously, despite the humor you will no doubtably see and hear exchanged around any dropzone. The reality is this – if we fully accept and internalize the fact of our own mortality, then, by definition, we have to deal with the essential questions of how we choose to live and spend our allotted time here on Earth. This, in turn, motivates us to stop procrastinating, pretending that we have forever to do what we want to do or be who we want to be and, instead, go out and make it all happen, never taking one single moment for granted… not even our very last.
*Attached below is the link to help fellow skydiver, David Medved’s family with covering the cost of his untimely funeral expenses. No amount is too small and every donation helps. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.
“She felt like doing her part to change the world, so she started by giving thanks for all the blessings in her life, rather than bemoaning all that was missing from it. Then she complimented her reflection in the mirror instead of criticizing it as she usually did. Next, she walked into her neighborhood and offered her smile to everyone she passed, whether or not they offered theirs to her. Each day she did these things and soon they became habit. Each day she lived with more gratitude, more acceptance, more kindness and, sure enough, the World around her began to change because she had decided so – she was single-handedly doing her part to change it.”
Accountability has taught us that if we want something we must first DO something in order to get it. In order to get good grades, we have to study. In order to earn a paycheck, we must get a job and go to work. In order to become fit, we must exercise regularly. And if we want to have clean clothes to wear, we must first be willing to do the laundry.
It sounds so elementary, but there is a growing trend that’s seeking to defy that logic – where people not only believe that they deserve certain privileges which they haven’t actually earned but, no matter how much they get, they constantly feel like the world still owes them more. This sense of entitlement leads to so much negativity in our world. Greed, jealousy, obsession, compulsion, and a never ending sense of emptiness – like a gaping void that can never be filled or an appetite that can never be satisfied.
We have all been impatient or witnessed ignorance and impatience when standing in line. We’ve all, at some point in our lives, been on the giving and/or receiving end of “road rage”. We’ve all had “places to go and people to see” and days when we’re running late, becoming frustrated, and succumb to the stress of a situation we’ve most likely created for ourselves in our own minds. In moments like this, we sometimes tend to take it out on those around us. As the joke often goes: “Everyone faster than me is crazy, and everyone slower than me is a jerk.”
If accountability feels like an attack to someone, they are not yet ready to acknowledge their own behavior. So, if that sounds like you, then maybe you should stop reading my blogs because they are all about honesty, accountability, authenticity, and personal growth. I often chronicle the highs and lows of my own personal journey through this life because I, too, am a work in progress. I, too, desire to live my life in happiness and peace. And I, too, have things I need to consciously work on, day after day, in order to maintain my own positivity and peace.
All of these analogies aren’t really about dirty dishes or laundry anyway. They’re not about speed limits or other drivers either. They’re about whatever is brewing beneath the surface – the rage, the animosity towards others, the entitlement, the greed, the self-centeredness, and the general preoccupation with our own desires at the expense of others.
Mindfulness highlights our accountability for our own inner peace. We can’t live a positive life with a negative attitude, just like we can’t expect to have food in the fridge if we don’t go shopping for groceries.
We understand that if we want clean plates to eat off of, we must first wash the dishes – similarly, if you want to go faster than another driver in front of you out on the roads, then you can peaceably go around them. It doesn’t matter who you think is right or wrong, because if you have the expectation that the world should run according to you, then THAT is the real source of your misery, not the other people in this world or the other drivers on the roads.
We can’t be at war with ourselves and live in peace at the same time, it’s just not possible. Ultimately, if you really want to be happy, without any internal or external conflict, then align your beliefs with your words and actions. It’s the only way to be truly happy – and nobody else can do it for you.
If you want “the world” to change, you must first be willing to change yourself. This is the one and only time when it all really does begin and end with YOU.