Category Archives: Tough Stuff

Pollyanna.

If I try hard enough, I can find a silver lining in a lot of situations. For instance, right now, I’m telling myself that the silver lining to my insomnia (it’s currently 3 am) is that I do my best writing when I’m overtired. {Except for tonight. Because my grammar is terrible. Bear with me — I’ll edit when I have more than 6 hours of sleep in 3 days.}

When Tom ruined his ankle, looking back we can see how it landed us here in the Carolinas. Living 6 months apart when he was in California ended up being our saving grace, since we weren’t stuck in a lease and could move here for a better opportunity.

Tonight, or I guess last night, Tom didn’t make a legal snatch at the American Open, rendering him essentially out of the competition, out of medal contention, and unable to help his team get points for the title. It was, and is, an absolutely heartbreaking situation. The worst case scenario is always an injury. This seems like the second-worst.

It is so hard to put all this in perspective. Watching him come home every day from practice, bruised and bloody, aching and sore, you tell yourself that it’s all worth it. And for his teammates that walked away tonight with gold, unequivocally, it was. For the teammates that placed and put up respectable numbers, they’ll probably agree. But when he walked off that stage after the 3rd snatch, I wasn’t so sure. {Obviously it’s not my decision, I’m just keeping it real.}

And I wondered if he was going to come back out for the clean + jerk. I know Tom, and I know he’s not a quitter, but after a defeat like that, for someone as emotional as he is, you wonder if it’s worth the pressure. And then it was his turn, and he stormed up on that stage with a ferocity I had never seen before. And I knew at that moment he’d make his lift. And he did. And then his second turn. And the number was high. And I knew if he made this lift, his 3rd attempt would be a PR. And he made the second. And that was it. I knew he was going for it. He didn’t just walk onto that stage. He MARCHED onto that stage, staring this bar down, looking for vengeance. He was going to prove it to himself, to the audience, to his coach, to his teammates, and to that bar, that he was good. And he did. The lift was beautiful. The look on his face was frightening. And then his victory celebration…it was so exciting.

And there you have your silver lining. The feeling I had in my stomach after the snatch session was awful, and I wouldn’t want to experience that again or wish it upon another lifter. But without that, I wonder if he would have made the 192 later. Would he have the determination, the fuel, the focus that it would take to get three white lights?

Medal or no medal, it is obvious to see that this kid has something special. He’s strong, but he’s new and raw in this sport. And tonight is the sandpaper that will smooth him down and make him a great weightlifter.

“In this life, we’re not looking for easy. We’re looking for worth it.”

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Carolina in My Mind.

Well, I believe the proverbial cat is out of the bag…

I am not moving to California.

{I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.}

So, here’s the story. I was in California a few weeks ago to find an apartment. On Monday, Tom and I found the perfect apartment. It was across the street from our new favorite microbrewery, had granite countertops, a fireplace, and was even $100 under budget. And on Tuesday, I flew back to Chicago. Tuesday evening, the following text conversation transpired between my husband and I.

“We need to talk. There’s some big stuff going down.”

“Wow. That’s never good. With who?”

“With what, you mean. The team.”

“What about the team? Wait, let me guess…Murphy’s Law. We just found our apartment, so that means the team is moving right? LOL.”

“…”

“Seriously?”

And that, folks, is how my life turned upside down in 30 seconds. I don’t have the time or energy to go into the politics of the move, but what I can/will say is that this has the potential to be a very good opportunity for us. We’ll be settling in South Carolina, near Charlotte, NC. This move really allows Tom the ability to concentrate 100% on training and not feel the pull of working another job. Luckily, I can pick up and work from wherever I have an internet connection and a phone, so other than the timezone, the “move” really isn’t inconvenient.

But, I am sad to not be moving to California. I was really, really looking forward to it. I had already found {and met, and loved!} a writing group out there, I had found an alumni organization to join…it seemed that everything was falling into place.

And then just as the glitter settled, dusting our eyelashes and shoulders, everything was shook up. Not only could we not talk about this {huge, mega} change in our lives, we had days to figure out where we were going to live and how we were going to get there. We wrestled with how and when to tell our family and friends, while still keeping quiet like we were asked. While I pored over rental listings and online photos trying to find something that didn’t remind me of a scene from Slumdog Millionaire, Tom began to quietly contemplate severing ties with the new alliances, clients, and teams he had lifted with, worked with, and coached. The more I thought about it, the more terrified I became.

I’m going to be a Yank. I’m not going to be any good in the South. I’m probably going to hate it. There’s nothing for me out there. From big, beautiful, thriving San Francisco to a small town in South Carolina…I don’t even like sweet tea.

It’s all been an adjustment, and a really hard one at that. Maybe even harder than the initial “Oh my gosh, I’m moving far away!” I don’t do change well, and that might be a slight understatement. I also don’t do well in situations where I have a decided lack of control. And with this…not knowing the area, not knowing when Tom will move, not knowing when I could or should move, partially as a result of the very sad, hard situation with my Grandmother…it’s just all been really, really tough.

So our adventure takes another {U}turn. We’re turning our moving truck East, learning how to make sweet tea, and trying to build the future American record holder. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to love the South and get a novel or two published.

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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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