Thursday, January 1, 2015

Carrying Hope into 2015


I'm so glad to have waved good-bye to 2014. I have very few fond memories from the past twelve months, but some years are best forgotten.  At least most of the bad moments in there. 

It's been a tough year.  In many ways, my toughest.  And when I reached the year's end yesterday, the first thing I thought was that it was a miracle I survived it.  I know those words sound melodramatic, but for me, at the time, they don't even begin to capture how torn apart my soul has felt this year after everything I experienced.

I know 2015 will be a different story.  It has to be.  Because I feel like I hit rock bottom in 2014.  It was a year of more heartbreak than happiness.  True rock bottom is a firm boundary, comforting in its limits that at least appear to mean things can't get worse.  Of course I haven't truly hit rock bottom. Things can always be worse. But pain is pain.  And the lowest you've ever been becomes the newest rock bottom, because it's the worst you've known.  I have had many dark moments in my 51 years of life - many of those when I was just a kid.  So maybe rock bottom isn't the right word, because when I reflected on the year, these were the first fleeting thoughts that came to mind about the year....

I lost one of the closest loves I've ever had. I found some new trail friends. I enjoy running with them more than I'll ever admit to anyone.  I miss my old running friends.  I ran the Leadville Marathon.  My boys graduated from high school.  Ryan set some amazing running PRs. That kid went to Montana for college on a track and academic scholarship.  My feelings were hurt, many times.  I sat on my shower floor many times with tears streaming ... until all the hot water was gone. I ran a 50k on my 51st birthday - and smiled the entire day.  I spent a weekend with my daughter in Salida (where I ran a horrible race) and we ate dinner at a gas station in the middle of nowhere (Southpark) and still laugh so hard whenever we bring it up. I understood depression a whole lot better. I had a job I absolutely loved. Because I had the best manager - who soon became a good friend - that I ever had. I drank some great beers.  And ate some outstanding Mexican food.  I lost a friend to alcoholism.  Her car temporarily sits in front of my house as a daily reminder that life is short.  I learned there are many senseless thing you can live without (television, for one).  Brendan plays the piano for me every night and it melts my heart. I climbed about 176k vertical feet.  I ran exactly 2014 miles.  And 17 races. Many of them I'd classify as pathetic, but every one taught me something about myself - and some were even fun.  I had my first DNF - and I didn't wither away like I always envisioned I would. I took on a walk-to-run 5k program for new runners and beamed with pride of their accomplishments. I registered for the Boston Marathon in 2015.  I had some amazing conversations with some incredible friends. I have friends who just refuse to give up on me. I never cease to wonder what I did to deserve their friendships.  I learned it's okay to be sad sometimes, we deserve time with our emotions.  I coached some incredible athletes.  I found things to be grateful for that I never imagined I could be.  My daughter aced her math GRE. I explored new adventures on trails I'd never run before.  Where I found some amazing geological gems.  And momentary peace.  I learned public assistance doesn't mean someone's a bad person. Or lazy.  I learned everyone has their own demons.  I learned not all lawyers are scum.  I learned never to judge anyone, for you never know what anyone is going through. I found a new running coach. In my backyard, practically.  He hasn't dumped me yet.  He lost his free ticket to do so so he's stuck with me for the year.  I spent a couple days in Dallas with one of my longest, dearest friends.  He spoiled me rotten.  And we shared some great words.  I slept the best I ever slept all year there.  And I ran one of the most consistently-paced marathons of my life.  I learned not to be afraid of things I once was.  I learned I am a pretty fierce fighter, if I can just calm all the clutter in my head.  

And I learned to find peace with 2014.

People call the struggles and heartache "growing pains" when there's not much you can do about it. Labels like this are suppose to sooth us into the relief that the hurt we feel isn't novel. It's not unprecedented for humanity.  It's all part of the game - a necessary part, probably.

When we look back over the year, or decade, or our whole lives, we wax nostalgic.  We say things like, "I wouldn't trade the lessons for anything."  But in the lesson-learning moments, BLAH.  Sometimes we would trade the experience for anything.  Who is right?  Is it the version of myself who feels that pain or the later version who only remembers it?  It's easy to assume that the present version of yourself knows better than any version that came before.  But try telling someone who is suffering tragedy now that what they are experiencing is a totally good thing.

If they'll listen, the only power that will get them to believe what you say is HOPE.  Because a promise that the tragedy isn't unprecedented, or unexpected, and maybe even necessary, doesn't take the sting away.  It just helps you believe that the sting might go away later to be replaced with something more pleasant.

Hope is just a prologue to gratitude.  It's good fortune that hasn't yet been fertilized by time and perseverance.  It's the optimistic simile of platitude.  I chose "optimistic" because unlike platitudes, hope has teeth.


It's what's powered me through this year of heartache.  And more importantly, it's what has made that year of heartache full of happy moments.  I think hope is what got me through this year and because of what I saw it do, so it's what I'll carry into the next.

So excited that the new year is a chance for fresh beginnings. I'm looking forward to uncovering what lies ahead in the next 364 days, what Boston will bring me and the marathons beyond that - and working with my new coach.  I can't promise I'll fire this blog back up regularly in 2015, but maybe more than the 4 times I wrote in 2014. There's always hope, huh? 

Happy New Year, my friends.  Run strong!

Starting off the New Year with a little vertical, with new and old friends (and Ryan :))....