Tag Archives: relationships

Citius, Altius, Fortius

As a person with feelings, it’s hard to watch the Olympics and not get caught up in the emotions of the competitions. It’s hard to NOT cheer for the underdog, hard NOT to tear up when an Olympian tears up on the podium as her national anthem plays, hard to NOT root for and get disappointed when the US doesn’t take the gold. Even before my husband began taking steps towards his Olympic dream, I loved the drama and exhilaration of watching The Games. But now that we’re here and watching other athletes with paths similar to ours, it’s an entirely different thing.

It’s hard for me to watch these athletes’ loved ones in the stands without wondering if it will be me the cameras are panning to in eight years…(well, assuming cameras are there. His sport is the one they air at 2 am because it’s not super popular.) It’s hard to not wonder if I’ll be biting my nails as he approaches the platform, if our families will be with us or watching from home, if his teammates will be representing the US, or if they’ll have been edged out by the competition.

Four years would be pure luck (and, as Tom was told by one of his Olympic heroes Brian Oldfield, “Good luck, and by that I mean work hard, because there’s no such thing as luck in this sport.”) Eight years is the goal…a dream so far out of reach right now that the host city hasn’t even been chosen yet. Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul hold our hopes, without even knowing it.

I read somewhere today that the Olympics are 95% narcissism and 5% national pride. There’s a grain of truth in that, I guess. I think the percentages are pretty far off, though. But I think that’s a necessary combination. To do what Tom does to his body day in and day out, you have to want this so much for reasons beyond American pride. To spend 4+ hours a day training, 2 hours actively recovering (that means tubs full of ice and painful muscle stripping), and another 3-4 hours watching the Greats, your competitors, your teammates and yourself on Youtube, you have to want this for yourself. You have to be crazy enough to analyze videos from the ’70’s while rolling your muscles out on PVC pipe to reduce the inflammation from today’s workout. You have to be crazy enough to give up not one, not two, but three jobs you love to move across the country to train with the best coach and athletes. You have to be crazy to give up a steady paycheck and a comfortable life for one of little monetary reward and lots of physical risk.

You have to be crazy enough to want the Gold. Or the Silver. Or the Bronze. Or just the chance to march in the Opening Ceremonies, donned in the colors of your country, as millions around the world recognize you for the talent you have and the sacrifices you make.

Or, you must be crazy enough to stay married to someone who wants all that.

To my love: Citius, Altius, Fortius 2020.

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Battle Wounds.

Everyone’s been asked some form of this question: “Where were you when…

…President Kennedy was assassinated?
…the planes hit the World Trade Center?
…your spouse asked you to marry them?”

All of us can recall these heart-stopping moments; the personal, the emotional, the patriotic. I can remember very clearly both times I found out my husband was going into emergency surgery. {Never a good idea to try to continue your yoga class after that phone call, folks. All the meditation in the world can’t help you.} I remember where I was, down to every single detail, when I found out my niece had passed away. {Bleachers of my high school pool; I knew something wasn’t right when my mom missed my first home swim meet that season.} I remember with crystal clarity the moment Tom received the phone call officially inviting him to California {2 am, CST, the night before Christmas Eve.}

I think in the moments of uncertainty, when your world is rocked and your bones are jarred, there are two types of people: those who look forward and do their best to right themselves, and those that sink into the spinning with self-pity.

Out of many of these moments, even the ones that bring despair and heart-wrenching grief, there is always something positive to recognize. Disorder and chaos can birth some of the greatest joys, failure and rejection can raise the fiercest of passions, pain can breed appreciation and gratitude.

This blog is me, whole and unabridged, unfiltered and raw. My emotions live here, snaking across the page in black and white, a constant reminder of what I feel and how deep I feel it. In “real life,” however, I have a bit of a reputation as an ice queen, someone who is quick to numb themselves from the situation, coolly and brusquely plowing through a problem. The reality is that despite my appearance, I observe, feel, embed, and over think every detail of a situation, from the words that were uttered to the tone that shrouded it, and everything in-between. I replay scenes in my head, a Nancy Drew hunting for meaning behind words and actions. I watch conversations unfold in my mind over and over, analyzing and over-analyzing, until I’m so wired that I’m exhausted and can sleep for eight hours uninterrupted. Tonight, I am fired up. Tonight, the ice queen is not here. Tonight, I am feeling the hot burn of painful memories, ripped open with new weapons.

Tonight, I will vividly remember for years to come, just like I remember that night in December of 2008, and the sunny afternoon in April 2007. To you, they might mean nothing. To me, they were everything, and I have the scars to prove it.

Please choose to be the person that looks for the silver lining. Please choose your words carefully. They could mean the world to someone, and you might not even know it.

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Aren’t you lucky?

My, what good luck you’re having.

Boy, you are so lucky!

I love cataloguing the reactions I’m receiving from so many when I share our latest endeavor. So many exclaim, “My, aren’t you two lucky?”

To a certain extent, absolutely, we are. I firmly believe that an elaborate, delicate sequence of events had to occur in order for us to be where we are now. It’s exhausting to trace back the catalyst for this chain reaction, but here’s an over-simplified journey.

My husband experienced a very, very nasty injury at track practice in college, requiring an ambulance, emergency surgery, and months of extensive rehab. As a part of rehab, his athletic trainer and good friend suggested he join a fringe sport, Highland Games {the big guys in the skirts kilts who throw telephone poles cabers}. He did, and he fell in love with the community, the sport, the potential. There, he met an athlete who had just returned from competing as a professional weightlifter {sound familiar yet?} who was opening a personal training studio in the city where my husband already worked, and was looking for more trainers. A few months later her coach called, seeking leads on any young men who had a throwing background, the ability to personal train, and most importantly, the physical and mental attributes of a professional weightlifter. Did she know anyone who fit that description? You bet she did.

Sure, this opportunity could have found him a different way, but who knows? Without the injury, would he have focused on improving his overall strength and not relying on his {broken} legs? Maybe. Would he have honed and sharpened his mental edge, enabling him to compete successfully on a national level? Possibly.

I remember the morning of the accident as if it was yesterday. Senior year, and I was surprisingly awake and in attendance at an 8 am class. Two missed phone calls from his mother? Something’s wrong. I knew it without even listening to the voicemail. My stomach plummeted to my feet and I could feel my breakfast churning. I don’t remember a single inch of that 200 mile drive, but god bless my friend for having the instincts to go with me. I’m still in disbelief I wasn’t pulled over anywhere along I-88, my car edging close to 90 miles per hour when I remembered that boy lying underneath a scalpel. I arrived just as he was wheeled back from surgery, a total success, the doctor had remarked. I remember holding his gym shoe, bloody and sliced open from the paramedic’s scissors, sitting right in front of his bed for us all to gawk at. In the twilight of anesthesia, he was more upset about his shoe than he was at almost losing a body part.

We laid in that hospital bed and cried, my salty tears falling onto his hospital gown, his falling into my hair. We cried for what was lost, for the terror we felt that morning, for the fear of the unknown. What would the future bring? Would he ever run again, or was the doctor wrong? Would he ever get those All-Americans he had worked so hard for? Did he really have to say farewell to football, his first athletic love?

Who knew that one day that ambulance ride would bring him to the edge of the Olympics? That an eight-inch scar would introduce him to those five gloriously interlocked rings?

Lucky, indeed.

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Body Armor.

Fear is such a funny emotion. It can ebb and flow, it can surge suddenly, or it can build slowly, creeping up on you like ivy, quietly choking you off before you realize what is happening. Fear can motivate or paralyze, it can spur anger or kindness, it can masquerade as happiness, love, worry or denial.

Whether it’s provoked from the jarring 2 am phone call or sudden heavy footsteps behind you in the dark, fear cloaks you, physiologically manifesting in your veins before your brain can begin to process and decode the danger.

Last night, fear found me. I don’t like to poke at these demons, because I know that despite valiant efforts, I can’t outrun the worry that befriends danger. I was doing a pretty good job camouflaging myself, wrapped up in a quilt, insulated and protected from the chill in the air. Then the words found me…”I blacked out during practice, holding 400 lbs.” His good nature and decidedly positive outlook helped me battle the fear for twelve hours, offering me respite in the sweet shelter of denial.

And then I saw the video.

And I watched it again. And again. And again.

After staring for the fifth time as 400 lbs pressed up against his windpipe, my throat hurt. As he fell backwards onto his elbows, mine burned. My stomach absorbed those 400 lbs, feeling heavy with worry and fear.

“It’s not a big deal. It happens occasionally.”

The knowledgable and respected veterans agreed, enjoying the video like they would any good episode of Jackass. But the wife? The wife worried. Yes, the wife is green and raw, new to the experience and disrespectful of the process. But the wife is also powerless and ripe for a revolution, ready to declare Martial Law. {Martial/Marital – not a coincidence!}

“If it happens again, you’re going to the doctor.”

I watched it again. I watched his body sway, the five feet, eleven and three-quarters inches looking like a twenty story skyscraper. His head tilts back, his eyes, I imagine, are rolling the same direction. The loss of grip comes next and the bar slides down his massive arms. Arms that could deadlift 700 lbs now look like limp noodles as they fall to his side. One last awkward, unconscious attempt to brace for impact is made by his elbows before the camera cuts.

“I told you, it’s not a big deal. My coach says…”

I replay it again. Quick, powerful…cheers from the crowd encouraging his feat of strength. And then I’m taken by surprise again when he starts to sway. I watch it intently, mesmerized as the iron giant’s tight form slackens and falls. The onlookers’ shouts turn to bellows as they rush towards him, the image going black again.

“I don’t care if God himself told you it was fine. One more time and I will fly to California and personally escort you to the hospital.”

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Probably.

Has it happened to others in the sport before, and will it happen again? I’m sure of it.

But there is something so terrifying about watching the video that it makes me want to hop on a plane, grab his sweaty, chalky hand and bring him home with me. No, you can’t play with that toy anymore, it’s dangerous.

I am not his mother, I am not his god, I am not him. I cannot tell him what to do any more than I can tell him what to wear, who to be friends with, or how to drive {though I do try on that last one!}. Tucked away in the wrinkles of my brain is the recognition that he knows it IS a big deal, and he would probably be at the doctor without my goading if a repeat episode happens. But I need to feel the power behind delivering a rule. I need the safety net of his promise, the assurance that his common sense wasn’t knocked out when his head hit the wall.

I need the nightlight to protect me from the dark of fear, from the boogeyman who steals Olympic dreams and ends careers too soon.

I need to be able to add another tool to my kit, because fear will return. And it might even bring more friends. And maybe I won’t be completely prepared, but I’ll battle it anyway. Maybe I’ll use the shield of nagging again, or whip out the sword of ultimatums. It’s an ongoing battle against fear, and while I might be temporarily wounded, there’s a lot of fight left in me.

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With the advent of a personal audience, I think it’s worth noting a few things about myself, my husband, and this blog.

Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it’s a little crazy. Yes, sometimes even I can’t believe I’ve just shared certain things with the Interwebs.

But here’s the thing: these are the thoughts that are breeding in my brain on a daily basis, and I can’t shut that off, no matter how hard I try. I pride myself on integrity and honesty. A liar, I am not. I don’t believe that I’m being dishonest by not always sharing the dark thoughts that hide in the shadows of my life. Sometimes it’s self-preservation. Sometimes it’s the fear of being judged. For the most part, I am an optimistic person. I look for the best in life, I have high expectations of myself and others, and I know that as cliché as it is, a good attitude makes a world of difference in untoward circumstances.

I really am very much looking forward to this move, and very, very much to reuniting with my husband on a permanent basis. It’s not an ideal situation, obviously, but right now, it’s what we need to do to give this experience a shot. And honestly, I’m about to say something shocking. I don’t know if it would be a good idea for us to be living together right now.

My husband and I have been a unit for almost nine years. We are always learning about each other and growing, but for the most part, we can accurately predict each other’s thoughts and reactions to any given situation. {Yes, we’re one of those annoying couples.} I know that if we were together right now, he’d be worried about how I was adjusting and not enough about himself and his training. And I’d be so worried that he wasn’t focused on training, and that he was squandering his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. {We’d be really good at the Newlyweds game.}

But now he can focus completely on training and immersing himself into the world of professional athletics. {Which, by the way, is as crazy as every sitcom and reality show makes it look.} He can rest assured knowing that despite the challenges that our living situation brings, I am home, safely, with my family and friends. And I can commit myself to a difficult situation, ultimately knowing its impermanence, because it truly is for the greater good of this opportunity. It’s not every day that your husband gets a phone call inviting him to train for the Olympics in a sport he’s never competed in before. And it’s certainly not every day that this phone call also offers a paycheck, the country’s best coach, and teammates that are the best both inside and outside the gym. It’s enough to make me consider using the word miraculous.

It’s also really, really strange. Why us? Why him? Why now? Just when we thought our life was headed due North, the road winds and we find ourselves completely turned around. After fighting through the tough economy when jobs were scarce, my husband was finally staring down three full-time offers, all in positions that he would have loved. The decision was going to come down to money and commuting time. And then the phone rang and everything changed. Three months ago, I sat in my home, the first place that we shared together. The house that was adorned with our wedding pictures, a chunk of coral from the snorkeling trip on our honeymoon, the wine collection we’ve painstakingly built from our travels. Tonight, I write from the four-poster twin bed that I used as a child, ambling about in a home where I feel as equally comfortable as uncomfortable.

It’s hard to put into words what a tailspin the last few months have been. Up feels like down, right feels like left, inside is colder than outside. And not in a bad way, not at all. We are most certainly blessed. I am lucky. He is exceptional. But we are also processing. The next few months might be ugly. We’ll be shedding our skin just like we shed almost half of our worldly possessions. And so, my words might be scary, but I write them in the hopes that I can leave them here and wriggle away into the sunshine, feeling the warmth of miracles and hard work shining upon my fresh new skin.

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There is no sweeter feeling in this world, in my humble opinion, than the moment of vindication.

The moment you find the answer you’ve been searching for, even when people said you were wasting your time.

The moment you conquer the obstacle in front of you, when everyone else said it was impossible.

The moment your leap of faith pays off, even though your inner critic convinced you it was a bad idea.

Yesterday, I prevailed in a battle I had been fighting for over a year. It’s been a long, slow battle with my health that has caused me to think I was crazy…even a hypochondriac at times. But the symptoms were there, hovering around my person and making my life a living hell. The past few months have intensified, and I became a mad woman, grasping at unknown threads of hope and pulling hard. And after countless hours in waiting rooms, endless vials of bloods, over a thousand dollars in tests…the results were in black and white on this piece of paper. I had six times the normal level of this toxic substance in my body. SIX. TIMES.

It has never felt so good to hear bad news. {And yes, now that I have a diagnosis, I shall be just fine in short order!}

In any situation, when you invest so much time and effort into a project…be that in a hobby or a job, a personal war or a private fight, that moment when the weight is lifted from your shoulders in righteous victory is unparalleled by any other feeling.

As if telekinetically linked, my husband beat his PR today, in a big way. It was an amazing moment for him, and for me {I’m lucky enough to watch his training sessions broadcasted live!}. I watched him conquer the number that had been staring him down for weeks, mocking him, pushing him, making him sweat and swear. In one swift and easy movement, he beat it. He won that battle. As I screamed at the computer screen and he grunted with ferocity, that bar went up, and the screaming and the grunting dissolved into cheers, whoops, and a victory dance.

It’s these moments of vindication, the taste of victory and power and pride, that we both live for. We fight for every battle, push for every win, and rejoice in our moments of success. And when we fail, we take a deep breath and push onward. Sometimes I worry about the physical distance between us. I wonder if 2,200 miles is enough to break even the healthiest of marriages. I don’t worry incessantly about it, but it’s a seed that has settled in my dusty brain and is taking up precious space. On long days when we’re in foul moods, or busy days when we don’t have time to talk, I can feel that seed burrow a little deeper. And on days like today, when without even exchanging words, we both feel vindication, that seed shrivels up and vanishes.

We are competitors, both of us. He proves it daily, in a very physical way, while I shroud myself in quiet strength. We never give up. We fight for love, for bragging rights, for happiness, for each other…for sweet vindication.

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