Monthly Archives: March 2012

Deliriously Happy.

When I set out to craft a post, I usually leave the title for last. Somewhere along the way, my brain finds something poignant to represent my story, and I usually know instantly what that is once I type the last sentence. Today, I knew what the title was going to be before I typed a single word into the body of the post.

In the continuing saga of sad events in our lives, alluded to here and here, the phone rang again in the dead of the night, announcing that another life has been lost. This man has been mentioned as one of the nicest there was, supporting my husband’s team physically, mentally, financially, and every other way possible. In the short time my husband knew him, he became a mentor and a hero, the embodiment of all Tom wants to be when he grows up. As with my friend’s death earlier this year, the abruptness rocks your foundation. You call your loved ones because you need to hear their voices, you drive a little slower, you take the time to taste and smell your coffee and not gulp it down in a mad rush. Life suddenly feels heavier, the gravity pulling your mind back into the present, encouraging you to feel every ounce of your being.

In the face of pain, loneliness and change, I have decided to be happy. Personal struggles have been shelved and reframed, knowing there is only one acceptable outlook in my life right now. There will still be heartbreak and grief in my life, but the goal is to make sure it is fleeting. Instead of dwelling, I am choosing to replace it with gratitude and love.

When I miss him, I remind myself that I’m lucky enough to have him in this world with me.

When the pressure of the move threatens to break me, I remember that my husband is one of the few that has the chance to chase his biggest dream.

When the stress of work envelops me, I remind myself that I’m lucky to have a career that I enjoy that provides me with income, benefits, satisfaction, and a work-life balance that I’ve always wanted.

When I try to look at something and my vision loss prevents me from doing so, I blink, refocus, and silently say “thanks” for the ability to have received the medical care I needed to preserve the rest of my eyesight.

When I pay the bills, instead of cursing, I remember how lucky I am to have the money in my bank account to do so. {I also remember the faces of the homeless men and women that I met when I visited my sister who works at a shelter in California. Her stories remind all of us that we are blessed and lucky to have what we do, no matter how often we think it’s not enough.}

Life is not easy, nor is it always pleasant on the surface. But if you work at it, you can distill a pattern of beauty that surpasses what the eye can see. It will speak to your heart, and joy will begin to bloom, spreading quickly and warmly throughout your body. I hope that this post serves as a turning point, becoming the gateway to positive posts and banning the negative. Realism and honesty is always accepted if not encouraged, but I can no longer allow myself to dwell in the glum and melancholy.

For Jim and Kristyn, and all those that we hold dear, we owe it to them to be the best of ourselves, to choose the path of delirious joy, overzealous passion, and abundant love.

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Blinders.

There’s a common adage that death comes in threes. I’m not sure if this is applicable to just death, and if the number three is right, but it certainly seems that problems beget problems, and darkness stays longer than light. My heart is so heavy and sad for so many I know that are struggling right now. Just as I begin to make sense of a horrific story I’ve heard, my phone buzzes, alerting me to the next crisis. I almost don’t want to answer it anymore.

I’m big on self-preservation. If I don’t want to be sad, I won’t read certain news stories that I know will affect me. I purposely avoid television shows I’m sure I’d love, because I don’t want to fight the battle against being hooked. For as much as I tend to worry, I just don’t let my mind go to some dark places. In the same vein, sometimes I feel like Tom and I are immune to the stress that is our current and future lifestyle. I’ve always convinced myself {and listened as others told me} that there was something special between us…something strong and unbreakable.

I don’t think that having these blinders on is always the smartest choice, but I do think it allows me to plod forward in scary situations without being spooked. Semi-educated ignorance can be bliss. There are a lot of unknowns about our life paths right now that could cause disaster. Professional athletes in small sports aren’t well-compensated, if compensated if at all. My husband is in a situation that allows him some income as he trains, but it’s nothing compared to his salaried teaching and coaching jobs that he left behind. The dynamics of having one person chase their dreams at {quite literally} the expense of the other isn’t easy to navigate. Then there’s the move…the nerve-wracking journey to box up 1,400 square feet of possessions and two energized dogs and move them 2,200 miles into a 650 square foot shoebox. Time to find a new doctor, a new dentist, a new veterinarian, a new Sunday morning breakfast spot. And then there’s the injuries…the invisible monster that haunts practices. Is the soreness temporary, or is something worse going on? What’s lurking in the future? Will it all disappear tomorrow, dreams ripped to shreds like torn muscles? There are battles with ego, temptation, insecurity, power, teammates, sleep, guilt…

While the world seems to crash down around us, we cling to each other. We look straight ahead.

Don’t look at the wreckage, or you’ll get nervous. One foot in front of the other, that’s it, keep going. Don’t look back. Don’t listen to the crying behind you, it’ll only make it worse.

Are you scared? Me too.

Heated.

So here’s a new one for you, internet world.

This weekend hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe it’s all the, well, for lack of a more eloquent word, crap in my life right now, or maybe it’s just reality hitting me a few months late. The last week would have been one of the most celebrated weeks in our house…Off Week. As a college coach, my husband worked every evening and every weekend, often leaving me to fend for myself at family parties, events with friends, and general weekend life. But Off Week, the short, sweet period of time that he had no practices or meets was MY week. I knew he’d be home every evening by 5, like a “normal person,” and the weekends were mine to plan. Sometimes we’d go downtown, sometimes we’d do nothing, sometimes we’d spend hours at the forest preserve hiking a new trail with our dogs.

On Saturday, I realized it was Off Week. And then I got irrationally angry. I’m not really ashamed to admit this, either. I feel like I’ve been a brave solider for a long time now, and as a friend put it earlier, I’m due for a meltdown. I felt it all start to bubble inside, a bitter acid of hatred brewing in my stomach, spreading through my veins and flushing color in my cheeks.

I hate California. I hate weightlifting. I hate it all. This is no fair. This is MY WEEK, and they stole him.

When he was an athlete in college, I used to half-heartedly joke that he had two women in his life…myself and track. Weightlifting has become his new mistress…the one he spends his days with, the one that brings him the greatest frustrations and the greatest joys, the one who he thinks about while he lays in bed at night. He would do anything for weightlifting. {He’d do anything for me, too, but that’s not the point of this.}

Since we’re being honest and raw, I’ll also admit that it’s not easy to be number two in your spouse’s life. He and I have had this conversation many times, but to no avail. In order to be the best, to be the greatest, there can be no distractions, no second guesses. In the split second that he hesitates to choose between myself and weightlifting, someone else will swoop in and become better. It’s tough, and it’s no fun. I can’t sugarcoat that, not for you, dear readers, and not for myself. I’m not a martyr, either. I lack patience and sensitivity, and at times, the will to understand. It’s easier for me to stick my fingers in my ears and throw a mega-tantrum.

In the end it comes down to an ultimatum: would I rather be selfish and have a passionless man all to myself, or would I rather share a great man with fire and determination?

In the distance, this seems like an easy choice. In the cyclone of emotions, the torrent of an Irish temper mixed with the fire of an Italian mouth, I often choose the former. But when I stop yelling and drop my hands to my sides, I know which option I need to choose. What option I WANT to choose.

On our wedding day, we opted to perform a simple yet poignant ceremony called a handfasting ceremony. The concept is simple: we were asked a few questions, answered with honesty, and our hands were bound with silky ribbons to remind us of the committment we chose to make. It was the questions that made us fall in love with this, and they still ring true.

Beth, will you share his dreams? Yes.
Tom, will you share her dreams? Yes.
Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes? We will
Tom, will you cause her anger? Yes.
Is that your intent? No.
Beth, will you cause him anger? Yes.?
Is that your intent? No.
Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? We will.

We entered this realistically, and the span of miles between us doesn’t change this. Makes it more difficult, maybe…but it doesn’t alter the vows we so enthusiastically and honestly made. So tonight, I will temper my anger and hatred, for it reminds me of how fierce my love is for him, and that is a blessing in this dark period of my life.

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Tequila, Salt, Lime.

It’s amazing how resilient a person can be…how in the face of pain, fear, disease, loneliness, one can have a remarkable attitude. How after a tough life, one that didn’t always offer the comforts that so many of us are blessed with, a person can carry on with grace and dignity.

The difficult situation I referenced in my last post continues, and the prognosis is bleak. To respect those close to me involved, all I will say is that someone I love deeply is very sick, and the ending we all feared is becoming reality. And though we’ve thought it was a possibility and no one attempted to sugarcoat the truth, it’s still a difficult thing to hear, to process, and to acknowledge.

I’ve written hundreds of words about what a jumble my mind is right now, but none of it seems right to publish. The rantings of a crazy woman, it seems. The sleepless nights, the dark circles under my eyes, the fog that’s settling over my brain has gripped my wrists and is typing to you today. A million thoughts racing through my brain, the negative thoughts encircling the positive, bullying them and chasing them out. I believe the technical term for this is “going through a funk.”

But the sweet chaser of this bitter whiskey is that I’m lucky enough to have a caring family, a loving and emotionally-supportive husband, and friends I can call on anytime. And maybe that won’t change this outcome, but it certainly helps ease the stinging pain that burns my throat and makes my eyes well up with tears.

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Muzak.

There was a time, back in my foolish years, that I didn’t appreciate the music of The Beatles.

What? I know. I can hardly stand being friends with myself. {Sarcasm.}

But now, now I appreciate it. I don’t just love it, I get it in a way I didn’t then. I understand the themes, and they’re applicable to my life.

At my {our?} wedding, I wanted non-traditional music. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics, and have a special place in my heart for Pachelbel’s Canon in D, but I wanted the songs that played to reflect the joy and the happiness of the occasion. If you haven’t figured this out, I don’t do tradition for tradition’s sake. The song we kissed to and then floated down that petal-strewn aisle was “All You Need is Love.” And at that moment, that’s all we really did need. Now, thousands of miles apart and living out of a suitcase, sometimes that’s all it feels like we have.

Music plays to my soul in a similar way that writing does; they both feed it, nourish it, revive it. A song can instantly snap me out of a funk, or place me in one. Yesterday, after a few  particularly difficult hours, I drove my car down the expressway, the windows down to get out the smell of hospital that had permeated my clothes, the music cranked up to drown out the wind and the negative thoughts in my head.

There’s something pretty nasty in my life right now, and no easy fix for it. It’s going to be a sad road, and facing it without my husband by my side is something I don’t even want to think about. And, I don’t know, maybe love won’t be enough to get us all through. Maybe it will. But step by step, minute by minute, we wait, we pray to whatever deity we believe in, and we go on, for life does not stand still.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

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Glory & Gold.

You guys, I did it.

In the crazy, always thinking a million miles ahead brain that resides in this heavy skull, I shoved off time and remained in the moment.

This was momentous for me. It was, as Oprah would say, an “Aha moment.” No thought or worry that would enter my mind in those seven days would make them any longer or better…only shorter and sad. And the time with him was perfect. It wasn’t all fun. At times it was boring and scary, lonesome yet claustrophobic, but we enjoyed all the time we spent together.

I worried that maybe things would feel strange or awkward, that we would need an acclimation period with each other again. But we didn’t. We picked up right where we left off, but better, more sophisticated. We were more aware of the other’s feelings, taking care not to bruise one another emotionally, for our time to make repairs was short. We were honest and raw, talking about our biggest fears and worries, the physical presence of one another protective and comforting. We whispered about our dreams, the twinkle in our hazel eyes encouraging broad smiles on our faces.

It was surreal, it was short, it was wonderful.

We sat together, shoulder to shoulder, hands clasped as we watched fifteen women fight for two spots on this year’s Olympic team. Hopes were high, then they were dashed. The battles were epic: two women reigned the competition, then another pushed her way to the top, only to be knocked off the podium at the end. Yet another desperately attempted a Hail Mary, a last-ditch effort to literally muscle her way to the Olympics…and in the end, it just wasn’t enough.

Watching as two women’s’ dreams came true was exciting. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins, the endorphins almost palpable in the crowd of hundreds. But simultaneously, it was heart-wrenching to watch the women whose dreams died that day.

Four years of work, sweat, pain, blood, sacrifice: will it be enough? Is he killing himself now only to have his overtaxed heart crushed later? Is what I’m bringing to the table enough? Is it too much? Is it worth it?

Without getting into the migraine-inducing technicalities, it’s worth noting that the way this sport operates, no country is guaranteed a spot at the Olympics. They are instead based off of team performances at other world-level events. This year, the men currently don’t hold a single spot. There’s a chance they’ll eek out one in the coming months, but there’s a far greater chance they won’t. So what about the athlete that does everything right? The athlete who is the first to show up and the last to leave, the one with the deepest scars and the strongest muscles? It’s painful to think about: that we could uproot everything, turn things upside down, only to be met with devastation because as a country, we are not strong enough.

I looked over at him, wondering if he was feeling the same mixed emotions I was. And it was evident: the glory, the one shred of hope of making that team. I could see it in his eyes, the gold outshining the green, the fire of an athlete burning.

So we’re doing this. Completely, unequivocably…we’re putting all our proverbial chips in the middle of the table, and looking forward to the day four years from now where we found out if the bet we took was worth it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that either way it turns out, we’ll have no regrets.

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