We’ve been in a place of adjusting. A place of celebration… of just figuring it out.
Leaving something you’ve been a part of for 11.5 years is never easy, so I think we’ve also been in a place of mourning.
I recently started running again, because I remember that in times of my life when I felt my absolute best, was when I ran. I was lying in bed one morning and realized how bad I felt. So after a year and a half, one morning I made a mental choice. I climbed out of bed, and fished out torn shorts that are now an unintentional tribute to our home in splatters of paint. The same sports bra I’ve had since college, and an old t-shirt. There were honest to goodness cobwebs on my running shoes, and I tipped them over to make sure there wasn’t a spider in the other end waiting to punish me and my intrusive toes.
But I put them on anyway.
My running playlist is a little dated, and I’m slowly adding in some new. But to some all-time inspirational cheesy faves and the raspy ballads of Christina Aguilera, I run. And for a month now, I’m a fighter. I put one foot in front of the other. Feet pound the pavement and sweat pools in places I forgot it could pool. There’s a man who lives further down the street who I’ve seen a few mornings now. He looks intimidatingly strong, and he was probably in the military and I’m sure I could never keep up with him. I took it as a challenge, as a motivator. He’s unknowingly become my co sweat-covered running buddy. My mind shuts down while I try to take in enough air.
I focus on feeling alive.
I run to the point of wanting to throw up in the morning Alabama heat, and I love to hate it. The feeling that comes later, the way my body and mind are reacting… I know it’s worth the price, and I remember what it was that I missed so much.
I received a letter a few weeks ago in the mail from a very kind soul at our church. A woman who has always been an example. Someone I really look up to. It was a simple thank you. Thank you for being there to support your husband. Thank you for being alone with your kids when it wasn’t easy. Thank you.
Just thank you.
I did the ugly cry, on the sofa for a while. It was a release. For so long I felt like I wasn’t enough, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t deserve that thank you. I didn’t do enough. I could list all the ways I’ve fallen short. If you’ve ever been in the throes of ministry, if you’ve ever been a part of something that can be amazing because it’s bigger than you and not about you at all, and completely frustrating all at the same time for a million different reasons… a place of trying to be supportive for something that can sometimes be very hard to stand by… then you know it’s not an easy place. So for a while, I’ve been this shrunken person as a metaphorical ball in the corner. Welcome to the pity party in my own personal desert.
But that letter. That one little card with thoughtful words scrawled across it from the heart, it was a real eye opener.
I’ve been doing a little bit of an unintentional experiment lately. Unintentional, because I’m not sure I meant for it to happen, but I’ve found myself in places at various times for it to happen. I decided to start doing things for people. I know it sounds silly, trite, and shame on me for not doing it all along. I wouldn’t say I’ve been completely selfish, but I’ve just shut it down. I think we all have times in our lives where we do what’s necessary in an effort to make it through. And sometimes, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But I’ve started focusing on things that are a little unexpected. It hasn’t been easy. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. I feel like I’m starting to wake up again.
The kids and I passed a man on the street yesterday in our car. He had a sign, saying he was homeless, and that anything helped. He also had a dog on a leash. It was hot. One million degrees, sticky summer hot. I didn’t have any cash, so I did something I never do, because I’m always afraid. I realize you need to be careful but this was different, and I just knew. The kids and I ran by a fast food restaurant, and picked up a few things. It didn’t take much, and I don’t say it to toot my horn because it wasn’t easy. It was completely out of my comfort zone, and I can always do more. But the bottom line was that I don’t know his situation. When we came back, he was sitting on the sidewalk, so with the doors locked, since I was alone, I rolled the window down.
Some will say it was dangerously stupid. Some will say I didn’t do enough. But I handed him the items, while my four year old quietly questioned in the back why he didn’t have any teeth, and my eight year old shushed him. The man asked me when I would be his future ex wife. He was blind in one eye. He said thank you many times, and it honestly made me feel worse for not doing more. Afterwards, the kids and I had a long talk about what people have and don’t. It brought a smile to his face, and it was awkward, but it also felt good to push myself to do something that was different. Something beyond giving money to a cause, something beyond organized group events. Something that truly made me uncomfortable and nervous for all the right reasons, and also, probably had an impact on our kids.
Something small, but something that mattered.
Little things, one at a time. Opportunities that are suddenly there that I didn’t see before. They’re revealing themselves, and I’ve felt an urge to respond to them. Like a stirring that I’ve ignored for a long time.
I’ve started paying attention again. Because of that, I’m experiencing an unexpected return:
I’m starting to heal.
I was five minutes into my run this morning. I didn’t want to. But I put on those shoes, and I went again. I was already sweating, and this time, Demi Lovato was singing something in my ear about breakups and stars and moons. For some reason cheesy girl anthems motivate me, so it is what it is. Either way, I like that I keep it loud enough to drown out the embarrassing sounds of my own ragged breaths. I passed a lady who was older than me and gave a quick wave. I wanted to give up, and felt myself regretting my choice. I’m pretty sure those cobwebbed shoes felt a bit heavier than usual. When I came back around, she was standing there, doing something completely unexpected.
She was cheering me on.
This woman, who I’ve never seen or met before. With her sun visor, arms waving, a thumbs up and a smiling face. I couldn’t hear all of what she said, and it was only for a brief second. But she was literally coaching me with an encouraging word: “Don’t give up! You keep going girl! DO this!”
Sometimes we get so caught up in our bubbles and our lives and our own issues that we forget why we’re here. We miss what’s been right in front of us, perhaps all along. How many opportunities like a sweet letter or a stranger on the street or just the opportunity to pay a genuine compliment, have I missed because I was distracted by fear or fill-in-the-blank here? Because I was caught up in my own “suffering” and issues? Because I was insecure?
The irony of it all? A way to recover, the ultimate way to grow, is in forgetting yourself. And paying attention to the chances that are right in front of us. They’re little opportunities to help others.
That sweet lady has no idea the amount of encouragement, and a reminder she was this morning. A symbol of what I want to aspire to be. Of what I’m determined to be.
Don’t give up. DO this.
And in the meantime, ragged breaths, imperfections and all… one step in front of the other… I’ll keep pushing.
Beyond those comfort zones.