This weekend, I have the rare opportunity to explore my writing. For the first time ever, I’m participating in a writing workshop at the North Shore Readers and Writers Non-Fest in Grand Marais. The course is lead by creative writer Kathryn Savage. Remember back in early 2020 when I traveled to Florida to participate in a personal development conference? You know the one where I was terrified to dance with 10,000 strangers? Well I upped that today by sharing my writing with ten individuals. Turns out, it is a lot less revealing to dance like nobody is watching, then reveal your soul to strangers. The joys of being a writer.
Anyways, the class has my brain in overdrive. I will be leaving this weekend with so many more questions than answers. But, I’m also leaving a new found appreciation for some new forms of writing. I’m even playing with some new approaches to my non-fiction writing. Here’s a glimpse of just one of my writing prompts today. I hope you enjoy it.
Wonder and Worry
I wonder sometimes if I’m overly ambition. Too extra. Too out there. I worry that I am not enough.
I wonder if we had caught the addiction sooner, my mother would be alive. I worry I’ll follow in her footsteps.
I wonder if my son knows how much I love him. I worry I will smother him to death.
I wonder if I’ll ever lose the extra weight. I worry about the impact diet culture has on women.
I wonder if I love my job enough. I worry I’ll never find my calling.
I wonder about the roll COVID-19 and a broken health care system played in my father’s death. I worry I didn’t advocate hard enough.
I wonder if there’s a greater being in the universe calling the shots. I worry about challenging my faith.
I wonder how I reversed a life of poverty. I worry I am not generous enough.
I wonder why Pet Smart prohibited me from buying a goldfish. I worry about all of the goldfish sacrificed as prizes of the golf ball toss game at summer festivals.
I wonder why I grow so many zucchinis when I hate zucchini. I worry my garden will never grow.
I wonder if I love myself enough. I worry that my ego gets in the way.
I wonder how a dating app brought me and my husband together. I worry about how technology is changing relationships.
I wonder if I miss opportunities because I’m the world’s largest introvert. I worry that I talk too much.
I wonder where these words are coming from. I worry words are never enough.
I wonder if I worry too much. I worry that I wonder too much.
Facebook reminded me today that ten years ago I accidentally blended my finger while making guacamole. At the time, it was extremely traumatic. And, as someone with a low pain tolerance, I thought I was going to die. Crazy how surviving pregnancy and giving birth changes that perspective. But I digress.
I still have the scar from that immersion blender. Every time I look at it, I’m reminded how quickly life changes. Not in an overly dramatic way, but how something as simple as making guacamole, can scar you for life. Frankly, I think it is all of those small, simple things that add up to who we are as people.
This week I started training again. I’m nursing a real injury of plantar fasciitis, so I’m taking this slow. But, I’m already feeling life like has a bit more purpose. That, even in the midst of what’s sure to be yet another fall of COVID-19 chaos, that I’m in control of at least a small part of my life.
This summer I mentioned I was taking time to just think and be. A summer of productive procastination. It was an intense summer of Teremana margaritas, adventures with Jake, smut reading, cabin time, cocktails with friends and food. Soo much food. It was great for the soul and my mind. But, the past few weeks I’ve been feeling a bit aimless. A bit out of control. (Plus my pants are getting very tight). A bit like, what’s my purpose.
I opted to return to the basics. I’m ordering a Spin bike. I’m giving myself grace but training for a race again. I’m balancing out my summer reads with some personal development. Topping that list, gaining a better understanding of my PCOS. I’ve set a new writing goal and registered for a fall retreat. I’m making my bed every single day. I’m stretching for 2-minutes before I brush my teeth in the morning. Simple things that the book Atomic Habits (a must-read folks) taught me. I’m dreaming of a winter adventure with the family and maybe one by myself.
As beautiful as productive procrastination has been (and man it served me well), it is time to resume regular scheduled programming. Driving home today, I noticed the first tinge of red and gold on some leaves. A new wool sweater arrived at my house. While I’ve invested in my first pair of Birkenstocks (perhaps the makings of a future post), I am making plans to wear them with socks.
Transitions are always tough. Summer to fall signals a lot in my brain. A sense of urgency to make this year count. To not squander a single outdoor moment before the first snow flies. This year is no different, except that I’m going to try my hardest to balance a life of purpose with enough grace to also enjoy some productive procrastination. I think sometimes I approach life as an all or nothing. I’m finally realizing that maybe it doesn’t have to be this extreme.
Ten years ago, I enjoyed a few too many mojitos at a dinner party and announced I was training for a half-marathon. (I was not.) Nevertheless, the next day I decided in a carb-induced hangover to make good on that announcement.
Since then, I’ve crossed dozens of finish lines, often at the back of the pack. Along the way, I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks that I wish I had known starting out. I put those together in a book and also for an upcoming blog post for Another Mother Runner.
But, today I want to share another lesson that’s been on my mind. Time. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. The obvious trigger is losing my dad and also rapidly approaching the age my mother was when she died. One cannot help but question their mortality in these moments. Bigger than that, though, is the time the constantly escapes while busy waiting or planning for the next thing.
In the healthiest of times, I guess it can be called productive procrastination. It is why I have not dived into my next book headfirst. I know my heart needs a bit more time to heal. But, in most situations, at least for me, it is about fear. It is about me wondering but what if I fail, or this isn’t the right path, or I discover I hate it or someone is better than me. Sometimes I spend so much time pondering and contemplating that I forget that sometimes the easiest solution is to just move ahead.
Ten years ago, a few too many mojitos cancelled out my fear. Before I could ponder or talk myself out of running, I proclaimed myself a runner. I’m so grateful to that because I know 100% without a doubt if I had done the pros/cons list about whether I should start running, I never would have taken that first step.
I’m so glad I did. In the past 10-years, I’ve had a few lofty (for me) extrinsic goals that focused on time or speed. That isn’t why I run, though. I run because I choose to. Because it is the identity I want for myself. And the best way to achieve that, is to do it.
There’s a fascinating best-selling book out there right now called Atomic Habits. Game changer for me. It gives me language for a lot of the things I struggle with when it comes to creating simple daily habits that’ll help get me to the goalpost. I highly recommend it.
In it, James Clear reinforces something so vital to success – that in order to get anywhere, you have to act. Seems simple. Unless you are the plus-size runner who is trying to resume training. This weekend I did that. I tackled my first non-express spin class (45-minutes of pure sweat-induced bliss) and re-opened Hal’s app. I plugged in a fall race with my only goal being it is time to start again.
If you’re still reading this and are stuck, read Atomic Habits. If you’re stuck about how to start running, just lace up your shoes and go. If you want even something simpler, buy my book. Heck, drop me a line and I’ll even mail you an autographed copy. The bottom line is just start.
Ten years ago, I threw a few words out at a party that nobody but me remembers. But, it was the start of a journey I’m so proud of and I cannot wait to see what the next 10-years have in store for me.
I’m officially a wanderer. Ever since dad died, I’ve been pondering what’s next. Sure, I completed a few in-person races and have been trying to slowly re-enter the world post pandemic but in terms of the next big thing, I’m sort of staring at a blank page. This is new and frankly a bit unnerving for me.
As a Generation X gal, I like to deal in facts. As a planner, I like to know what’s next. So to solve this new conundrum in my life, I did what I know best. I turned to some trusty personal help books. I spent time charting out my why and revisiting my annual goals. I took advantage of free coursework and doubled down on amazing podcasts offered by some amazing personal growth gurus but none of it stuck. Except for this. The 5 Second Rule. Now, I don’t want to be too Pollyana about this and say that I agree with Mel Robbins when she says on the first page and first line of her book 5 Second Rule “it takes just 5 seconds to change your life.”
But, what I will say, is when you’re pondering what’s next and are spinning out a bit, there’s absolutely nothing better than just doing something. Frankly anything. So, about a month ago, I plotted out a few bucket list items and I pulled up my calendar and with no rhyme or reason, filled it in. Things I just wanted to do. Not because they’d drive professional or personal growth, or make me look like Mother Theresa or shed 100 pounds. But because it sounded fun. (This may seem normal to most folks, but I’m not known for my ability to schedule stuff just for fun, so go with this).
In the past few months, I have started rock polishing, enjoyed an incredible girl’s weekend in Marquette, planted my first hydrangea, made a gorgeous petunia planter (while sipping some adult beverages), planted a vegetable garden of only things I actually enjoy eating, started a weekly spin class and am strength training, scheduled a North Shore overnighter, resumed journaling, devoured some fabulous smut books and am co-coaching baseball. I’ve mastered the perfect margarita recipe and trained my chickens to come on command (with snacks). I’m working on a summer bucket list with Jake and set time aside to freshen up my wardrobe next week with a trip to an outlet mall. Oh and coffee dates… lots of quick check-ins with co-workers, girlfriends and even a bit of networking over delicious lattes. I’ve sold nearly 5,000 copies of my book and am jotting down ideas for my next book. I’m still in what Mel Robbins calls productive procastination… which as a writer is different than just putting a project off due to stress but instead allowing myself space to be creative. Not sure if that’s a real thing but I’m going with it for now.
I mention all of this because at times I get to the end of the week a bit exhausted but feeling like I have done nothing. If I allow myself to get caught up in that mentality that in order to be better than the day before, I need to somehow level up my game, than I am failing on all accounts. A year ago, I would have beat myself up over that—called myself directionless and without a specific purpose. Heck, that’s why I dropped a small fortune to listen to someone pep me up and believe that if I don’t have a series of life goals that I’m actively working on, then I’m blowing my life away.
Turns out, I was wrong. Sometimes, you just need space to explore. To wander. To give yourself time to figure out what makes you tick. You don’t do that by sitting down and envisioning your perfect life and then manifesting it by getting up at 5 am and moving your body. You do it by living. By trying new things and allowing yourself to recognize that you may discover something about yourself you don’t know. The truth is, the more I try, the less I know about who I want to be when I grow up but I’m having some serious fun giving myself the space to ask the question. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes that even means jumping out of bed at 4:40 am to hit up a local spin class. But, I did it because I wanted to, not because I thought it’d change my life.
A friend recently posted a shot of our high school graduation 25-years ago. I vividly remember that day. My mom had died two months prior and I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I felt an obligation to become “something” to keep her legacy alive and to not become some silly statistic of what it means to be a first generation college student of an alcoholic. In hindsight, I know my mom will always be proud of what I’ve done with my life but if she were around, she would have reminded me that life isn’t worth living if you are doing it for someone else.
So today, I share all of this, only to tell you that the past year has been rough. It is has been trying and serious and depressing and polarizing and game changing for many folks. Few if any of the folks I know would say that 2020-2021 was fun. I’m with you. But, I’m also hear to say that if there was ever a time to give yourself some grace and let go and just be – it is now.
The 5 Second Rule talks a lot about manifesting the life you want by being brave and taking small action steps. But, if you are like me, and find that sometimes making time to just have fun is almost more daunting than tackling an MBA, then I challenge you to 5-4-3-2-1 yourself into doing nothing. To catapult yourself into a walk with no purpose other than to check out nature. Or, wander the aisles of a store and buy something totally frivolous that makes you feel pretty. Or, buy that extra espresso shot, even if it means you’ll end up binge watching an extra couple hours on Netflix and being tired the next morning. Heck, show up at a spin class and feel like a Rhino riding a bike for the first time, only to leave knowing you’ve surpassed Lyndsey Vonn’s #chin drip because you are so out of shape but find yourself wanting to go back for more. As I look ahead to the second half of 2021, I’m proud to say my one and only mantra this year is to be a wanderer. It doesn’t mean I won’t wander into some crazy, game changing experiences but the why behind it will be a bit different.
Something tells me that maybe somewhere someone needs to hear this. At least I know I do and I figure I cannot be alone. As a writer, I understand that words matter. I had initially wanted to call this post, setbacks suck. Instead, I’m trying this. Tough Transitions. So much of my life these past few months have been about transitions. This past week, it came to a head in something that is most definitely a first world problem, but was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
My race was cancelled. The one I started pre-training for in January after my dad died and was just hitting my stride on in my real training. The one that I’ve been religiously training for because I needed a win. Not in the literal sense – let’s be real. But, in the sense that I needed to feel in control of something.
Sure, I knew it was a long shot when I signed up. COVID-19 is still real and I respect the very tough decisions race organizers are facing right now. But dam, I needed that weekend to push myself. Yes. I know I can run any number of virtual races. Yes. I know my husband would set-up a mock half-marathon course and cheer me on. But that’s not the point. I had a plan and my plan was turned upside down… again.
I was really mad. So mad I almost deleted Hal’s training plan right off my phone. I definitely was NOT going to hop on the treadmill for my 3.5 mile run without a reason. I definitely wanted to have a pity party. And man did the waterfall of tears start flowing.
To be honest, I’m a bit sad. I’m really, really tired of losing things. And, no matter how hard I try, this idea of finding meaning in the hard stuff is kicking me in the ass. Yep. I’m going there. I think it is time to say that sometimes things just flat-out suck. The silver lining just isn’t there. That if handed rotten lemons, one could make nasty lemon-aid or they could just say, throw the lemons out.
That’s where I’m at today. There is no silver lining to losing my dad. Yes. He is done suffering. And, I am so glad that he is no longer in pain. I am glad that my dad got to make the decision but that doesn’t ease so many of the what-ifs. And, it definitely doesn’t change my reality. I’ve lost my rock and sounding board. In many ways, a huge part of my purpose.
So yep. I’m mad and sad and not ready to find any silver lining. I don’t want to know his legacy lives on in his kids. I want him here. I want him here to say to me right now, who cares if your race was cancelled. Find another. I want him here to provide me perspective and tell me that running will probably kill me someday because it is hard on my knees. I want to fight over the price of a rib-eye and the weather differences between Iron River and Cloquet. I don’t want to drive by the Scanlon exit but rather to it.
So yes, the cancelling of the May 1 race triggered a lot. It reminded me that I need to give myself some flipping grace. That I’m not ok and right now, that has to be ok. That every day I get up and try hard and do the minimum is a win right now. I’m still showering (most days). I’m still loving on my kid and dancing in the shower and finding joy in the most superficial of things (amazon deliveries are almost daily). I’ve settled on a new vitamin stack and I’m letting Hal tell me what to do 4-times per week. And, I’m trying to come to terms with my new reality of being an orphan. I don’t say that for pity. I say that because words matter. And while I am so blessed to have so many incredible people in my life, I am an orphan at 42. It sucks.
On a different day, I might try to say that family isn’t just who you were born to but who you befriend along the way. That I am so blessed to have incredible in-laws and friends and a soul mate and a son. But guess what? I had all of that and dad up until December. So nope, no silver lining yet. No greater sense of purpose or understanding or acceptance. It doesn’t diminish the moments I cherish and the time we had together. It just means I still wish he was here back when he was healthy. Back when we’d play catch in the backyard and chat about nothing for hours on end.
Will it get better? I don’t know. Lots of people say it will evolve and change and become the new normal. An extended transition I suppose. But, the road seems really long right now. So, I’m trying to find control in the little things. The Door County Half was one of those. But, that to turned out to be another transition.
If you’re wondering, when my pity party ended, I ran the 3.5 miles. I found a back-up run that’s 10-miles on the same day. My friend was gracious enough to follow my change of plans. I got back on the saddle and said tomorrow is another day. A chance that maybe someday the moments of joy will outweigh the sadness.
Transitions are tough. They are one of the hardest things to get right when writing. They are painful and cruel in real life. A necessary evil to grow and evolve and to do better. I’m hopeful that some of the roughest, choppiest transitions in life pave the way to something I never could imagine. I’m cautiously hopeful that’s what my future holds. That if I continue to show up and speak my truth, my experiences can someday help someone else through a tough transition.
So if that’s you, I hear you and I feel your pain. I won’t say I try to understand it or that things will eventually get better. Inevitably, just like pain found you, I want to believe joy will find its way to you again as well. At least that’s what I’m banking on.
To tough transitions and finding ways through them without losing sight of all that’s good. Sixty days and counting until race day. Let’s go.
PS For those struggling with grief. A game changing books that have helped me…
Valentine’s Day. What a loaded holiday of unmet expectations. I’m gearing up to channel my inner Finlander by eating my weight in carbs with this TikTok phenomenon known as uunifetapasta. I’ll enjoy this savory meal with my favorite men and a chilled shot of Teramana, Cointreau, lime and Sprite Zero. It isn’t quite a margarita but might be one of the best drinks of ALL time.
But, before I do that, I wanted to talk a little bit about love. Yep. I’m going there. This week marked my first Amazon review by someone I didn’t know. On my first-time author journey, this was a big deal because I honestly didn’t know if anyone who didn’t feel obligated to the read book would. And, it turns out some folks have.
It also tuns out, at least one person, loved it. From Hildee Weiss, “I loved hearing her story of how she got into running and I enjoyed reading her tips and suggestions ranging from what to eat before a big race to what to look for in a shoe. She writes with honesty and humor and with heart.” A five-star review. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it felt pretty amazing.
My writing is far from perfect. But, the one thing I pride myself on is being honest. I write my truth, for better or worse. I mean how many other gals share their stories about shit-stained pants for the world to see? And, it turns out that vulnerability occasionally resonates with like-minded women trying to find their way in the world. Enough so, that I’m excited to announce that starting tomorrow I’ll be occasionally sharing my running adventures on Another Mother Runner. Dimity and Sarah have been absolutely fabulous to chat with and they are kind enough to allow me to share some stories on the amazing platform they’ve built over the past decade. I am pretty excited. If you are interested in checking it out, sign up for their podcast here. This past week, I also had the opportunity to share more about my running journey on WTIP out of Grand Marais. I was once again extremely nervous, but Annie was an amazing host and it was an absolute honor to share my adventures with folks in Grand Marais. I also dropped off copies of my book at Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, making it now available in 5 places!
Most weeks, this would be beyond exciting. But the thing I’m most excited about this particular week is I just finished Week 1 of my 12-week half-marathon training plan. It was sub-zero so my time was spent on the dreaded treadmill. I had four training runs for a total of 12 miles. And guess what? I did all 12-miles. This week I loved myself enough not to quit running. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. I used all of the hacks. Tim Riggins. Ordering new shoes. Drinking Nuun and using the massage gun. Scheduling the work-outs in my calendar. Doing the Mel Robbins countdown and channeling my inner sisu. Yes. I know that sounds a bit dramatic. But, I’m being honest. Running isn’t easy for me. Especially after a year plus hiatus.
And you know what? It felt good to keep my promise to myself. It felt good to move my body. It felt good to focus on putting one foot in front of another after a challenging month of navigating grief and a harsh Wisconsin Winter. Thank god for therapy, friends and family. I don’t know what the next 75-days hold. I do know that right now I’m savoring this week’s wins and lacing up for another week of showing up not just for those around me, but for myself as well.
Ten hours after my father died, I found myself in a pet store trying to comprehend the clerk as she explained she could not legally sell my son and I goldfish due to not having the appropriate tank prepped for the occasion. It was Christmas Eve afternoon and I had promised my son we’d surprise dad with a fish for Christmas. I was still under the impression that a 25-cent goldfish did not take an act of congress to secure. In the haste of navigating nursing homes, a global pandemic, a hospital transfer and hospice, I had neglected researching the complexities behind purchasing a simple fish. Standing under the fluorescent lights of the big box pet store, I fought back tears (and some serious anger) as my mind raced to come up with a back-up plan.
Meantime, my son, ever so resilient, immediately suggested we peruse the pet store aisles for a pet we could take home that afternoon. He guided me blindly up and down the aisles and before we knew it, I was seconds away from making a 2-year commitment and walking out with a hamster. I was all in until my son confirmed that hamster poop was beneath him and that it’d be my responsibility. In that moment, I regained control, fought the holiday crowds and secured four tropical fish, tank, food, and accessories with a few white lies and a lot of grit. We even made it home and had the tank set-up prior to our 3 pm family zoom call.
It wasn’t until a few days later that my world came toppling down. Grief is like that. It comes out of nowhere and leaves you trying to find meaning in even the simplest of things. But, this isn’t a post about grief. It is a post about promises.
Why the fish? Because when I make a promise, I keep a promise. I knew with every ounce of my being that I would not leave the Twin Ports Christmas Eve without a fish. But, the problem with promises is that commitment ends as soon as it is with myself. Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to break a promise to your employer, friend, family, volunteer committee or even random acquaintance on Facebook but promises to yourself are the first to go? If you’ve figured that out, let me know. Because I am guilty as charged.
Last week, I had the honor of being a guest on Another Mother Runner podcast. We talked about all sorts of things surrounding my new book, including the simple question – do you really hate running?
The simple answer is yes. But, anyone who knows me, knows that nothing is simple. Nothing is black and white in my world. I hate running but I love the act of running. And, I love that even during a global pandemic, runners get to write their own narrative. You get what you put in. And come race day, your time reflects your effort. In a world where everything it out of one’s control, I can still control putting one foot in front of the other. I had forgotten that for a while… but as I’ve pushed out my book… I’m remembering. And the truth is, I need that right now. Losing dad leaves a big hole in my heart… my calendar… and my future. I always knew my dad was sick but given the man had exceeded nine lives, a part of me believed he would live forever. Even while in hospice, I genuinely went to bed believing that there was a chance I’d go visit him the following morning and he’d be skimming the grocery ads ready to argue about the price of a rib-eye.
So here I am. One month later. If you’re wondering, the fish are thriving. I am not. I’m struggling quite a bit on a lot of fronts right now and I want to be honest about that. I don’t know how I’ll come to terms working in health care when I struggle with how mediocre and cruel the system is to people and their families. I don’t know if I’ll write another book or ever lose the weight or grow professionally. Many of the dreams I set out on to achieve in 2020 – pre-pandemic and pre-grief seem tone deaf to the life I’m living right now. The RISE conference a year ago seems like a lifetime ago. I find myself now with a blank page on what comes next.
For those wondering, yes, I’m back in therapy. I’m also starting to ask myself what’s next. Slowly, I find myself setting new goals that are a bit simpler, yet true to what really matters to me. I’m going to grow a garden of only vegetables and flowers I love. No more zucchini or marigolds and minimal beans. Good bye broccoli. I’m going to learn about rock polishing and shine some Lake Superior treasures. And, I’m going to run a race again.
Yep. This was a very long-winded post to say I’m running again with a real goal in mind. I hope to find myself lining up at the Door Count Half Marathon on May 1 and crossing that finish line in under 3-hours. It is a goal that is now ten-years in the making. It is time. I suppose one could say losing dad was the spark… but that wouldn’t be honest. The truth is, I want this for me.
I want to take the next 13-weeks and train hard. I want to make a promise to myself that I’ve earned the right to be selfish for a few months. To say I need this win after a year of losses. I need to feel like I’m in control of something right now – even if it is just for a few hours on a cold and windy May day. If the race is cancelled, so be it. I’ll find another and then another. And when I cross that finish line, I’ll be reminded that the most important person to keep your promises to is yourself.
Iron River resident Beth Probst is a non-athlete. Or so she believes. In 2011, after a few too-many mojitos at a dinner party with friends (remember those?), she decides to give running a try. Logically, she signs up for a half marathon, even though she’s never run a race in her life. And so begins the nearly decade long love-hate relationship with running.
It could be worse: a girlfriend’s guide for runners who detest runningis a candid and at times humorous look at Beth’s running highs and lows, successes and failures, and some tactical tips on how to be a real runner when you feel anything-but. An added bonus, she taps into the wisdom of some of her favorite female running buddies to offer some additional perspectives and advice to help move one from the sidelines to the starting lines.
Of the book, this first-time author says she decided to put herself out there when she realized a gap in the marketplace for the woman who is filled with a lot of insecurities and doubt about running and has only one goal – to cross the finish line upright.
“There is an incredible pressure towards perfect in society,” says Probst. “Running is no exception. When I first laced up, I found countless books that focused on how to run faster, train harder, eat smarter and finish faster. But, for me, the plus-size gal in my 40s, my goal was to just finish while keeping my toenails in-tact. I’ve since crossed the finish line over a dozen times and I still don’t get the alleged runner’s high folks talk about. I figured I wasn’t alone so I thought I’d share my story in hopes in inspires one person questioning if they should run, to just lace up and try.”
Beth never hides the fact that she’s only finished in the back of the pack and had some horrifying running mishaps. But she still keeps showing up. “The great thing about running is you get exactly what you put into it,” she says. “I’ve cut corners on training and ate the frozen pizza the night before a long run—and those mistakes came with consequences. But that’s the thing about life. It is full of choices but they are our choices to make. This book is as much about taking charge of your own narrative as it is about lacing up and hitting the pavement.”
As for who should read this book? The dedication says it all—this book is dedicated to any woman who has felt unworthy… but showed up anyway. “If someone reads this book, I hope they leave with a few resources and tips on how to channel their inner strength – or Sisu – and realize that they have earned a spot at the starting line as much as the person next to them. That’s the heart and soul of this story. And better yet, I hope they even laugh a little.”
The decision was made in an instant but years in the making. “I love you girls but I cannot keep fighting. Please don’t be mad.”
A glance at the nurse and a plea. “Please. I just want to go in peace.”
Suddenly we are out of time. After years of ups and downs navigating a broken health care system watching my dad fight for his life – and win; and advocating for his life more times than I can count, the decision is made. My sister and I advocate for him one last time. We watch dad initiate hospice and support him with all of our heart while feeling a piece of our heart break. He signs the papers instantly. He cannot nor should he suffer for another second in a system where folks fight to keep him alive, regardless of the physical pain he endures and his desire to die. He is ready.
He tells my sister and I he’s proud of us one last time in a sterile hospital room. A man of few words, he couldn’t have chosen a better book ending to a complicated yet rich life. I do not know it at the time, but I will not see him conscious again.
I should have seen this coming. In my head, I had prepared for it over and over again. I had made time for visits, listened to my dad’s endless stories and jokes, and sought therapy to help navigate the struggles of an aging parent. I had worked through my anger surrounding an amputation and a healthcare system that never understood my father. I had resolved all of the what ifs in my life – the times growing up where I was too busy pursuing my dreams that I missed the simple things. You know… the weekend fishing trips, county fairs, camping, phone calls and lunches. I spent the last ten years making up for those moments. I said everything that needed to be said. But yet, I still find myself in this moment, completely lost. Caught in the in-between. The part where you pray for a quick ending but guilt bubbles up and challenges why you would actually wish your father dead. A friend who knows grief all to well reminded me there is a difference between honoring your dad’s wishes and accepting them.
Later on, I find myself alone in the hospice room watching my dad gasp for air. COVID-19 has added a logistical layer of complications in saying good-bye. Science says my dad is on enough morphine that he is comfortable. My heart says he knows I am here. Here. Sharing one last moment with dad.
I choose to use this moment to remember. I remember our fishing opener trips – including the time I was so engrossed in my book that a fish pulled my rod into the lake before I noticed I had caught it. Somehow dad managed to retrieve the rod (with a very tired fish on it). I remember my one successful day of fishing catching Sunnies with dad and how delicious his pan-fried fish tastes. I remember our annual camping trip including the year my girlfriend and I snuck out to meet boys on the beach. My mom had to let us know she knew while my dad just gave us that look. You know – the one dad gives that say a thousand words. It was the same look he gave when I flicked matches into his ice shanty and got removed from a little league softball game for being sassy.
I remember arguing over the cost of a good steak, grapes and a 12-pack of diet coke more than once. I remember the endless conversations about weather where only Google could resolve the temperature differences between Cloquet and Iron River. I remember arguing just to argue and then argue about why we were arguing. My dad loved a good debate about nothing. That trait lives on in me.
I remember the endless days of playing ball growing up. Or, how dad would patiently watch me twirl baton, doing his best not to comment on the fact that I was destroying the lawn with my endless pivots in a quest to land that double turn around. I remember helping him plant his garden and sharing that first ripe summer sweet pea. I remember our trips to the Chicken Swap that resulted in unconventional pets and dad buying me a mule named Goldie and trying to pass her off as a pony because I was sad the pony I had wanted got purchased before we could buy him.
And then there was the advice. I remember dad lecturing me on how I didn’t need another degree to feel smart or that changing jobs wouldn’t make me happy. That a job is called that for a reason. I remember my wedding day where after our father-daughter dance he simply said, I hope he makes you happy and if he does, I’m happy for you. Or, the time he casually asked if I knew how babies were made when he felt I was taking too long to make him a grandpa again. I was 34 at the time.
I remember dad telling me he missed mom too when he knew I was sad. I remember dad walking me down a makeshift aisle at my wedding and holding my son after he was born. I remember him helping me pack for college, see me off to Oxford and inspect my first home. In every critical moment, dad was always there on the sidelines rooting for my success. He’s been the constant in my life. For 42-years, every major milestone has been marked by dad encouraging me to pursue my dreams.
These memories and thousands more will carry me forward. This morning he passed peacefully. And now the waiting is over, replaced with grief. Grief is a crazy beast I’m all too familiar with. A new void in my life no one can ever fill. There will be no story big enough, no fish large enough, or joke bad enough to replace the man who made me. But in this moment, I’m thanking a higher power that dad’s struggles are done and that he’s reunited with mom in time for Christmas. Heaven gained another angel this Christmas and left a hole in my heart. But for now, I will find comfort in remembering and knowing that my dad’s stubborn spirit lives on in the family he created. Not even grief can take that away.
I finally did it. I wrote a book. A book dedicated to any woman who has felt unworthy… but showed up anyway. In other words, gals like me. The book is technically about running – hence the title: It could be worse: a girlfriend’s guide for runners who detest running. But as I say in my into:
This book is about finishing. It is not about winning a race, enhancing your performance or setting a new world record by utilizing some ultra-hip training plan. This is simply a book of tips, tricks and tales about what happens when you want to be a runner and…
In other words, running is not central to your breathing. You are a strong believer that running is a means to an end. That running is exercise. That the running culture is cool and you aren’t sure that you have a place within it, but you want to show up anyway. You don’t know where to start. More importantly, you don’t know if you belong or have earned the right to show up.
For years, I’ve let myself believe that I’m not ready to be an author. That I somehow have not earned the right to pen my story because of a whole slew of reasons including lack of education, lack of writing experience, lack of life experience… the list goes on and on. Surprisingly, I have a similar list for why for years I didn’t call myself a runner. I also believed that in order to write a book about running, I’d need to either become a really good writer or a really good runner. Newsflash – I am neither.
But, that’s the point. This book is as much about insecurities and the power of acknowledging it is ok to just be ok at something (or even mediocre) as it is about the tips I give so you don’t shit your pants before a run or lose a toe-nail. And I truly believe in a world of overly polished posts and perfection, the world needs more of the messy truth.
So folks, this is me being messy. This is me putting myself out there and sharing my running journey. The highs and lows, and the tears, laughs, mishaps and miracles I’ve experienced along the way. If you are a runner, you may find comfort, humor and/or pity in my story. If you for even a second want to be a runner but are scared to lace up, I hope you find some courage in these pages.
At the end of the day, this story is as much about me putting myself out there as asking you to take a chance on this first-time self-published author. I hope you’ll consider buying my book, reviewing it, and even sharing it with a friend.
Or, a few shops are carrying my book locally. Check out the buy my book section on this website for a listing.
Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some additional excerpts from my book, along with some of the incredible essays my favorite running pals penned for me. Their stories are equally if not more amazing.