Monday, March 21, 2011

The Women In The Mirror

Aleela and I running in Marshall, Minnesota

The second day of Spring! A welcome season, indeed. Especially this year. I have always prided myself in being a true Midwestern girl, loving the change of seasons and all they have to offer. Winter in general has been a time of rest for me. Less hours in the day has always meant less to do and more time hunkering down with the family watching good movies and getting to bed early. Since becoming ill, my reaction to the change of seasons has evolved significantly. For example, much of my time is spent indoors regardless of the season. Sunshine and heat can be my worst enemy and if not taken with precaution can lead very quickly to a flare. So the reprieve that winter once offered now feels even more restricting. This year in particular, I had to work very hard at keeping things in perspective and staying in the "Now".  But I'm not always successful, and sometimes that's not only OK, but maybe a little bit necessary. 

This will be my third Spring "post-diagnosis". I'm hoping to be be better prepared this year. The past two years things really crept up on me and it was not until I did a considerable amount of suffering that I finally figured things out. Much like holidays and birthdays bring suffering to those that have lost loved ones, so too, I feel loss associated with particular times of the year. The embodiment of my loss of health is epitomized by one thing - my inability to run. I started running when I was eleven years old. I knew at a very young age there was something in running that gave me space. It opened me up, cleared out the mess of life and made me feel good about myself. Until this illness, running had seen me through every struggle. Whether it was the birth of babies, back surgeries, the death of loved ones or the end of a marriage - running helped me to heal.  And springtime was my favorite time to run.

One of the best things about running for me, was the opportunity it presented to run with my family. Dave and I talk frequently about all the cities and states we have run in. It's fun to go back to certain locations and think about all the roads and paths we have traveled. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles on foot, each step carrying with it a story. Even around our own home, there is about a twenty five mile radius of endless country roads that bear the footprints of our travels. We can drive those very same roads and never experience the sights, smells and sounds that we do when on foot. It's unexplainable.

My oldest daughter Aleela is also a runner. The years immediately preceding my illness were some of our best together. There is a lot of conversation that goes on when you are on a twenty mile run together. We traversed some pretty intense terrain in order to get miles logged during marathon training. I remember one summer when Dave was unable to train with us. We had traveled to Marshall, Minnesota where she lived so that she would not have to do her "long run" alone.(we did this a lot for each other, alternating who had to travel) Dave drove us out into the country so that we could run our seventeen miles back into town with the wind at our backs. He drove slowly behind us the entire way carrying our water and food, and offering transportation if either of us couldn't make it back home. Going only about five miles per hour the heat off the engine made the thermometer rise a bit more than normal, but even at that, it registered 118 degrees Fahrenheit!

A record run!

Zumbrota, MN
Winter or summer, we never seemed to let the elements keep us from our time together. On one occasion we could not physically be together for our long run. The weather was horrible. About thirty-eight degrees, twenty-five mile per hour winds and torrential rain was the mix for the day and we both needed to log about fifteen miles. Half way through the run my cell phone rang and it was Aleela. I could barely understand her because of the howling wind and rain! That was one of the few times we agreed to give up the fight and go home. Thank goodness for husbands and cell phones!

Sometimes I long so desperately for those days that I can barely swallow the lump that fills my throat. I suppose, on the outside looking in, most would think us absolutely crazy. I wish I could describe better how much more those experiences were other than just "exercise". I think what I am realizing is that it was during those times that I began to experience what it is like to be present in the moment. And to have been in that space with the people I love most in life was a gift beyond measure.

 This past weekend I was with my daughter Emma in Kohl's. She was in need of some new summer clothes and we thought we would take advantage of one of their big sales. She's easy to shop with. It usually takes her about fifteen minutes to grab up a few items, try them on, take what fits and head to the check out. I usually wait outside the dressing room with all the other moms for the "approval viewing". This time I stood there alone. And there it hit me. Reflecting back at me in the mirror ahead, was the image of a women I am still coming to grips with today. Two and a half years of illness, hospitalizations, medications and inactivity have definitely taken their toll. Hair loss, skin changes, teeth coloring, dark eyes and prednisone weight make looking and feeling healthy a struggle to say the least. A year ago, even though I was unable to run, I would have looked at this issue as a challenge. Much like I would have done during my running days. "Well then, set some goals! Write things down, stick with plan and change my situation." If I were to have been writing this article a year ago I probably would have ended it with some sort of analogy about running. "Even though I am no longer hitting the pavement with my husband and daughter, I am still running marathons of a different sort....blah, blah, blah..." But I'm not.

The women in the mirror is indeed a different women. She's a better women. I may still struggle with the image I see (and even that is getting much better), but the women looking back at me is no longer running - TO anything or FROM anything. My life is much less about "becoming" and much more about "being". I guess you could say I'm experiencing my own change of seasons. Like we all must do at some point or another as the days of our lives pass so quickly by. And it's OK to sit and think for a bit about the paths our feet have trod along the way. But it's the very ending of those stories that make way for the new. It's the cold, barren dirt of winter that provides the life giving energies to the beauty of spring.

For in everything, there is a season. 

I love you, Aleela.


Alice said...

Thank you, once again, for sharing your thoughts and feelings. No matter what each day brings whether you can run or not, you are still a beautiful woman.....never forget that. Love you!

Theresa said...

You are so sweet, Alice.
Thank you for always having an encouraging word!!

Anonymous said...

I thank God every day for the beautiful, kind, thoughtful, insigtful woman that is my daughter. It has always amazed me at how much I have learned from her. I have yet to meet someone who knows Theresa that is not in awe of who she is - how she radiates with beauty and somehow always leaves you in a better frame of mind. I love you Theresa more than you will ever know. Mom xxoxx

Theresa said...

I love you MOM!!!