“Love Yourself – Lessons Learned in Transformation.”

“I’m not exactly sure what Life is trying to teach me, but I’m pretty sure it involves detatching myself from anything and everything that I cling too tightly to.”, I said to my counselor today as we discussed my most recent skydiving injuries. (A complicated arm/wrist fracture and compression fractures in my spine.)

“Transformation” is the word he left lingering in my mind as we parted ways at the end of today’s session. And he’s right – he’s seen me transform my life many times over. Beginning with my previous marriage – which ended in divorce but, ultimately, paved the way for a new, everlasting love to take root and bloom. Breaking free of a religion which never did sit well with my soul, enabling me to clear my mind of prejudice and indoctrination. Changing my profession after nearly two decades of fulltime work, allowing me the time and space necessary to heal from years of heartbreaking and traumatic experiences. As well as, hours upon hours spent over the past four years, counseling me through a very complicated grief process and subsequent existential crisis until I could finally begin to “see the sunlight” again.

Most recently, I have transformed my running from an unhealthy obsession back to a simple passion – with less attachment to the results, and more love for the actual movement itself. My finances, from paying out too much on lingering balances or spending on frivolous things, to paying off those balances and spending only on things I need or that benefit myself and/or my family with their experience. My job, by being more open and honest about my desire to escape “the grind” – working part time in order to live fulltime. And my home; decluttering every room, every closet, every drawer in our private space in order to discard useless or broken things and items which stir up negative emotions in me; donating or selling many others which no longer prove useful or add any value to our lives. It’s such a cleansing practice, the art of letting go.

In doing all of these things, I have opened up so much more time and space to see and do all of the things that matter the most to me – from spending more time with my husband, to reconnecting with old (& meeting some new!) friends, to exercising and running on a daily basis simply because it feels good and I enjoy it! Exploring this world we live in – from the small “mom & pop shoppe” businesses in our local communities, to planning much bigger travel adventures to look forward to.

It was during one of my more recent workouts (when I needed to modify, while the majority of other participants did not) that I came to this astounding conclusion:

“Love yourself for what you can do rather than hate yourself for what you can’t.”

Perhaps you don’t get why I call this “astounding”. It really is such a simple concept… and if you are someone who has done this all along, I applaud you – but it has taken all of my 42 years upon this Earth for me to realize this for myself.

Now, here I am, one week post surgery to repair the damage done to my body from crash landing my parachute in an otherwise perfect skydiving jump – completely unable to run, jump, or even walk much for any significant length of time… and you’d think I’d be distraught? The “old” me would have been riddled with anxiety and tension, shedding many tears for what would have been or could have been – but Dr. Michael is right – I’m different now. I’ve transformed.

So will I ever actually run the Boston Marathon as a qualified runner?

Will I continue my skydiving endeavors once my body has healed?

The answers are yet to be known, even to me.

I used to be so uncomfortable with ambiguity; but now I find it beautiful. 🦋

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“Love It or Leave It.”

It never ceases to amaze me how you can be going about your life, believing you have all your shit together, and then something unexpected happens that stops you in your tracks. BOOM! – just like that, your thoughts and memories become crystal clear and, all of the sudden, you realize exactly what is most important. This moment; this LIFE.

Needless to say, I had a bit of a “near death experience” recently and it really got me thinking about all the time and energy I have simply been wasting ; stressing myself out about and chasing after things that never really even matter when you can finally look and see the bigger picture.

I have no interest in elaborating on the actual event itself because it doesn’t matter either, in and of itself – what matters is what I saw in that exact moment when time “slowed down” and I realized that THIS could be IT.

First and foremost, I was not scared. I was calm, almost peaceful. I wish I could say that I had no regrets… but the regrets that I had were not what you, I, or anyone who knows me would even expect!

I regretted all the times I crawled out of bed early to go get that long run, as my husband lay sleeping beside me.

I regretted all the invitations I declined and beers not drank with friends whom I love because I was “in training”.

I regretted letting myself feel “weak”, “slow”, and “not good enough” for Boston – as if Boston were the epitome of what a good human being should be.

I regretted putting off all the things I WANT to do, in order to force upon myself the things I believed I “should” be doing to achieve these goals – goals which no longer serve a greater purpose for me.

Running has been such a big part of my life; since I was a frustrated teenager, growing up in our religiously restricted world… all the way through my years as a Paramedic, striving to stay healthy and sane in a very unhealthy and insane world! But somewhere along the line this “healthy obsession” became an unhealthy hindrance.

It took me awhile to see it… but now it appears so clear. For so many years, I needed to run… but then I learned how to FLY! 🪂

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“Beyond Broken.”

“What brought you here?”

That’s a very good question.

When I started writing this blog, it was primarily about a physical journey. An average, middle of the pack runner with nothing too special in the way of athletic ability – but with a dream of excellence and the desire to evolve to a much higher level.

Now, it seems, this blog has become much more of mental journey for me – the chronicling of a psychological revolution.

Much of my life has revolved around measuring up – to the expectations of my parents, the rigid rules of a religion which never really resonated with me, as well as, the personal and professional standards I’ve set for myself throughout my years upon this Earth.

I’ve spent years trying to find my place – figuring out where I belong, doing what, and with whom.

Now, it seems more about breaking free – from all of the people, places, things, thoughts and feelings which were never really meant for me and no longer hold space in my heart.

It’s crazy how, in just a few short years, something so simple can become so complex. What once seemed so important now pales in comparison to what’s most important to me now. Yet, what’s most important is the simplest thing of all.

As I sat on that picnic table today, staring up at the sky, and the skydiver sitting next to me asked, “What brought you here?”, my entire life flashed through my mind and lingered upon my three tandem jumps before taking on the AFF course.

#1.) May 2015, strapped to the same man who had assumed the responsibility of my instruction today, in order to simply face my fear.

#2.) October 2019, on the anniversary of my parents deaths, surrounded and accompanied by friends who have now assumed the role of my family.

#3.) October 2020, following the anniversary of my parents deaths and in the aftermath of their trial, as I was drowning in grief, guilt, and regret. It was on this day, as I was seeking to find out what it might feel like to die, that I was handed the reins (or, in this instance, the toggles!) and shown what it feels like to truly LIVE!

I’ve discovered that many students and skydivers have some similar experience (sometimes many!) and those who’ve been jumping a long time have a way of looking at things differently – with humor and grace, and a deeper respect for this gift which we have been given.

So, as a million thoughts and moments, failures and fears flashed throughout my mind, and my first instinct was to deflect and avoid, I stopped for a moment before deciding to simply speak my truth.

“A deathwish.”, I replied as our eyes locked on…and we both smiled.

When I came here, I came because I was broken; but now I am beyond all that. I am finally free.

Sometimes it takes facing death to make you realize how much you really want to LIVE!

Those who jump, KNOW. 🪂

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

*It’s not always about running; sometimes, it’s simply about LIFE.

“Blue Sky; Black Death.”

The world lost a good man today.

I can express myself only through the words of another, when my friend Emily said: “How lucky am I to have had someone that can make saying goodbye so damn hard?!”.

And it really got me thinking that “Life” is literally a losing game.

Seriously. Think about it.

In the end, “Life” is all about losing – losing your virginity, losing your health, losing your looks, losing your heart, losing your mind.

If you’re one of the “lucky ones” and, as the Bible calls: “of special mightiness”, you’ll most certainly lose a bit more.

Losing money, losing friends, losing faith, losing weight – until, ultimately, you lose YOURSELF – your very own life.

So then – what is the point?

This question, I posed to my counselor today.

The conversation that ensued was one which makes time stand still and all background noice stop. My full awareness rested upon his answer and the rapid fire questioning that led us to this analogy.

(The following is my “cliff-notes” version of a much longer conversation.)

“DANCING” is not about arriving at a certain point at a certain time – if it were, why would you not just go there, stand, and wait? Because it’s about the EXPERIENCE of dancing – the music, the motion, the beauty of taking those steps, and enjoying the feeling of DANCING!

“RUNNING” is not all about running “well”. It’s not only for those who are “good enough”, “strong enough”, “fast enough” too qualify for Boston. Its about FEELING good – clearing the brain and the body of anything they need not carry, and simply enjoying the EXPERIENCE of RUNNING!

Life is much like “SKYDIVING”. You don’t look around, asking a bunch of questions, because you just don’t have the time. You embrace the fall, breathe the fresh air, and take in the beauty of this view. You savor every single second of this ironically metaphorical experience – knowing, without a doubt, that it will all be over, much too soon.

So the next time this life stops you in your tracks and makes you wonder “what even is the point?”, just fill in the blank on this initial phrase with anything you most love to to do:

“Life is like: ___________________;”

(i.e. : dancing, running, skydiving)

And then add this sentence conclusion:

“…it’s all about the EXPERIENCE!”

Nobody knew this more than Moe!

“Live like you mean it – die with no regrets.” – Moe Viletto
“Everything will be okay, and we’re gonna meet up again.” – Moe Viletto (#BSBD)
“So that’s what we do with our dead buddies – we their celebrate life.” – Moe Viletto (#BSBD)

…once again, it’s not always about running; sometimes, it’s simply about LIFE.

*In honor and memory of Moe Viletto. #BSBD

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“She said: I think I’ll go to Boston!”

“Sometimes, you find yourself ignited with magic within a moment that becomes a portal into something extraordinary.” – Naussica Twila

🦄It’s just out of your grasp but you can sense it all around.

A presence.

It could come through rock & roll or Sunday worship, but it is persistent after a long span of silence. It calls to you – beckons you to know that something expansive lives within you and that it wants to sing, it wants to dance. And maybe “singing” and “dancing” are something else entirely. Maybe it’s thoughts and feelings and being on the brink of wonder that doesn’t quite sink in. Instead, it spreads all around you, ignited by preachers or poets and rockstars and you find yourself swimming in the deep, feeling before you can think, and thinking thoughts like messages from beyond.

It is not bigger than you. It is you.

At this exact moment, just 10 days ago, I was standing in the exact place which has beckoned me for the better part of the past 10 years. This was a moment I had refused to indulge myself in, as I felt inadequate and unworthy. But this time, when the opportunity presented itself, I refused to let it slip away. The gravitational pull towards this particular moment in this particular place was simply too strong. In the magic of this moment, I felt a great shift within myself. A quiet confidence, a restlessness, an energy renewed.

I have not been the same since.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“Patience, Persistence, and A Certain Level of Detachment.”

I think 2021 is trying to teach me something that 2020 didn’t quite get to sink in.

2020 was a long, emotionally tumultuous year, culminating in the jury trial for my parents wrongful deaths. The preparation for and execution of this trial produced an enormous amount of stress on me and ultimately resulted in my abandonment of my marathon training and the temporary “forgetting” of my personal goals.

September arrived and I found myself undertrained and unprepared to execute at the level required for my Boston Qualifier. I deferred from my goal race and entered a much smaller, local race instead with the intent to simply go the distance and finish the race in under the 5-hour time limit. Little did I know that this would actually come to be my proudest moment of 2020 – to actually physically run the only live, in person, marathon event in the state of Pennsylvania since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the subsequent pandemic restrictions.

October came – the anniversary of my parents deaths – and waves of grief again washed over me. But this time, I felt hope and the graceful hand of the healing process which I can only contribute to the completion of the trial and the closing of our case against the man whose name still produces a bitter taste upon my tongue.

November began and, for the first time in many years, I became physically sick. My husband and I both tested positive for Covid-19 and spent the entire month self-quarantined and taking care of each other as we struggled to recover.

December found us well, yet, residual symptoms continued for me in the form of exercise induced migraines and dizziness. The girl who once ran several marathons per year was now struggling to run a single mile.

January 1st, I experienced a breakthrough: I ran 5.50 miles (my longest run since September!) without a single symptom! My hopes for the 2021 racing season were instantly renewed!

January 2nd, I fell hard while snowboarding at Seven Springs and broke two ribs.

I have spent the past several weeks numbing my brain and my pain and, while I am healing well and expect to be able to return (gradually!) to my training, I must admit that my goals require a significant refocusing. It’s one thing to be a week behind in training; it’s a completely different story to be 6-8 weeks behind… this is a game changer.

That being said, I am certainly not giving up. I am always going to do my best… even with the realization that my best will (more than likely) not yet be good enough for the goal which I am striving to reach. I am not letting go of my goal… I am simply letting go of how I imagined this would all unfold.

The funny thing is, I am 💯 okay with it… and few things have ever felt this good. My mind and heart feel free.

There is great beauty in the “not knowing” – not knowing if or when or how something will happen – but knowing that if and when and how it happens will be worth the wait.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“A Heavy Burden… of CHOICE.”

I get it now.

Emotions are like ocean waves… big, beautiful and, if you are RIGHT THERE in the middle of the water – you can do little to avoid the fact that eventually (and, oftentimes, repeatedly!) you will be hit. What you CAN do is control how long it keeps you down, holding you under, as the world continues on above you.

In 2017, I lost both my parents in a car crash.

In 2018, heartbreaking details were revealed about that crash and the events that followed (spanning nearly 3 years, culminating in a jury trial by the end of 2020) further complicated my grief and prolonged the healing process.

In 2019, a friend of mine succumbed to the demons in her own mind and chose to end her life by suicide.

In 2020, I lost another close friend and work partner, but was blessed with adopting his best friend/dog – whom he always used to bring to work with him on our shifts together.

The past few years of my life have been tumultuous, to say the least, but I’ve come to realize a great deal about strength and resilience and how NOT to let the “bad things” harden your heart.

It’s not always easy. I’ve seen a lot of unjust and unfair things happen and find it hard not to feel angry or cheated, or even numb. Somedays the weight of all that I have lost is incredibly heavy.

But that’s ok.

The “trick” is not to ignore it or attempt to avoid the pain of these emotions, but rather to simply not BECOME them. Recognize them for what they are and then let them go.

Like the painful beauty of an ocean wave – see it , feel it, appreciate it, let it wash all over you… but find the strength you need, your desire to breathe, to pop right back up on top, and continue moving forward.

REMEMBER: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

*Once again, it’s not always about running. Sometimes it’s simply about LIFE.

“From Grief to Gratitude.”

How do you learn to let go of a friend to whom you never got to say Goodbye?

It’s been a year and I swear I still see you sometimes – a passing face in a crowd or behind the wheel of a big gray truck driving down the road.

In my memories of the crazy calls we’ve run, the things we’ve seen and done, or the many times that I needed help – only to turn around and find you right there beside me.

In the quiet times – a classic movie on tv and the restless way you used to get up and walk out because “Quint needs to go pee”, only to realize it was really you who needed to leave, as E.T. was dying on the screen and you, yourself, were about to cry.😂

The crazy WTF questions and conversations we used to have at all hours of the night while working a 24 hour shift with too much caffeine and way too little sleep.🤪

Or the night I realized that you, too, are terrified of spiders and I wondered (for the first time ever) exactly WHO is going to come and save us now?!😳

I am just one of the many whose life was touched by you; and I am just one, of the many, who still feels this void without you here. You were a good man, a great friend, and the best partner. My memories with you are many – and I am so grateful to have them all.🙏🏼

How do you learn to let go of a friend to whom you never got to say Goodbye?

I do not know… with all of these good memories, I’d like to think that I never really have to.

What I do know is this – everytime I look into Quint’s eyes, I see YOU looking back at me; and so long as Quint is right here with me, so are YOU.

We miss you Matt-Man. We always will.

Rest easy, my friend. I’ve got Q.🐾

…once again, it’s not always about running; sometimes, it’s simply about LIFE.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

💙In honor and memory of my friend and former partner:

Matthew Aaron Douglass (July 30, 1969 ~ January 12, 2020)

“Let That Sh*t Go.”

2020 was a tumultuous year, to say the least. Normally, on New Year’s Eve, I would take a seat and quietly reflect upon the passing year and write myself a recap.

Not this time.

You see, if I’ve learned anything at all in 2020, it’s that looking back does little to serve me well. I am an emotional being and can get sucked into my thoughts and memories quite quickly and easily. In 2020, I have realized what a trap this can be for me; one that offers little purpose and a great deal of pain.

This is not to say that the past is “bad”. Quite contrary, there are just as many good things back there as well. However, revisiting any of those things for a prolonged period of time runs the risk of keeping my mind there – and that is no way to live. Living in the past will always, inevitably, produce suffering. No matter how much good may reside there, it is no longer present and, therefore, can never truly BE again – which (for me) produces pain, sadness, and regret.

“Hiraeth” is the actual word for the feelings I have frequently experienced when stuck in this particular state of mind. It is a Welsh word for “homesickness or nostalgia, an earnest longing or desire, or a sense of regret. The feeling of longing for a home that no longer exists or never was. A deep and irrational bond felt with a time, era, place or person.”

I’ve come to realize, in the year 2020, that looking ahead, towards the future, is also no way to live. You see the future is not promised to any one of us. “Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all”. More than this though, the future is uncertain and unpredictable. No matter how good our thoughts or intentions are, we are powerless to control it. If we continually look to the future – wishing for more or hoping for better – we create a constant, insatiable desire for more, better, or different rather than appreciating all that we have and already are. In essence, we create our own suffering. We fail to recognize the good that is happening all around us right here, right now, and therefore miss out on what LIFE is all about, as we long for things we can neither realize nor control.

An epic and accurate interaction from the television adaptation of the book “Looking For Alaska”, written by John Green, rings out in my mind’s eye time and time again:

“MILES : “Meriwether Lewis’s last words were : “I am not a coward but I am so strong – so hard to die.” I’m sure that’s true but it can’t be much harder than being left behind.”

MR. HYDE : “Everything that comes together, falls apart. Everything. This chair I’m sitting on – it was built and so it will fall apart. I’m going to fall apart; probably before this chair. And you’re going to fall apart. Cells and organs and systems that make you YOU – they came together, grew together, and so they must fall apart. Nothing lasts. Not Alaska the girl, nor Alaska the place. Not even Earth, itself.”

MILES : “You’re not one for pep talks, huh?”

MR. HYDE : “Do you remember with the Buddha said life is?”

MILES : “Suffering.”

MR. HYDE : “And suffering is caused by desire. The cessation of desire means the cessation of suffering. When you stop wishing things won’t fall apart, you’ll stop suffering when they do. Until then, this will hurt. But you will survive; until you don’t.”

I, too, have been wounded. I have experienced great tragedy and loss. I have come to know myself at my lowest moments and on my most painful days. I have become intimate with my pain. I have stared at it, studied it, come to know it, and given it a name. I have derived from it many lessons and realized that this is not where I am meant to stay. Suffering is only necessary until you realize that it isn’t – and so I refuse to stay there. I step forward from this place, releasing the burden from upon myself, knowing that I am strong, I am no longer afraid of this world, and I can trust myself to handle anything that comes my way.

Therein, lies the key.

You see, no feeling or emotion is ever “BAD”. It simply is just that – a feeling, an emotion. It is what we DO with these feelings or emotions that creates the outcome. When we allow a feeling or emotion to become our ACTIONS (or reaction) is where things change, creating ripples throughout our universe. You are not powerless. You always have a choice. The “trick” here is to allow yourself to see the things you feel, even call them by their name, yet refuse to go with them. Stay here, in the NOW. If we can learn to simply see things as they are and for nothing more than what they are, we can not only find the peace that we seek, but actually BE that peace.

You are beyond powerful. You already have everything you will ever need to thrive and live up to your full potential. Now is the time to trust yourself and truly believe it. All you have to do is be willing to part with the beliefs, habits, and scars which you have allowed to stand in your way.

With the turning of this New Year, I encourage you to step into your power, tap into your potential, and show your truest strength. Do it with love. Do it with gratitude. And know that, doing so, is the very thing that you are destined for.

…once again, it’s not always about running. Sometimes it’s simply about LIFE.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun

“It’s Time.”

No one told me that it could take this long.
No one warned me of all that needed to be done. Even if they had, I wouldn’t have believed them.

“The first year is the hardest.”, they said.
Perhaps they were right and I just don’t remember? I’d have to say though that, for me, this third year has been the hardest.
I’ve made some major life changes in order to recover, grow, and begin to heal. Intensely examining myself – past, present, and potential future – in order to process everything that has happened, how it has affected me, what it all means, and how I can learn from it and use it to become better, wiser, and stronger.
All the while we have been constantly rehashing the details of the event in preparation for and execution of a jury trial which turned out to be a complete facade of justice, wrought with lies and an unlawful restriction of evidence.
And then there has been this coming to terms with the fragility of life and finality of death, as well as an acceptance of all that no longer is, can never be, and the emptiness that follows such a realization.

“October” makes me miss them more… but as I watched the leaves change to the brightest of colors, die off, and begin to fall, I felt a part me die inside, as well. Truth be told, for the better part of this month, I’ve felt nothing like myself and more like the shell of a human being simply going through the motions of day to day life without really LIVING much of any of it.

And I’m tired of it all. It’s exhausting.

This week has been especially hard as my sister and I navigated the final steps in closing the estates and prepare to officially cut ties with our legal team once and for all. All the while the timing of this culmination spans the anniversary of our parents deaths (October 26th) and concludes upon the anniversary of their funeral and burial. (November 2nd)

It’s been a long time coming.
I wish I could say that I am happy. I am simply numb.

Like a boxer stepping out of the ring after the match has been called a draw; relieved that it is over, yet battered and bruised, and in desperate need of repair.
There are no winners here; simply the conclusion of a long and drawn out fight.

I took some time to visit them this week. I placed 36 stems upon their grave; one for each month of this tumultuous journey.

I am not a “religious” person. I am still unclear on how I feel about any amount of “life after death”, but as I lay there looking up at the sky, I felt a wave of calm wash over me. I couldn’t help but think that no matter what happened or where they are now, we sure gave them a beautiful view right here, right now.

Realizing this made me proud – as I hope they would be of me now.

As I drove myself home that night, the void felt a little less thick. I could hear the words echoing in the back of my mind: “It’s time to get on with living.” …and for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t agree more.

#ChasingBoston #ForTheLoveOfTheRun