I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Archive for the ‘Bravery’ Category

The Trouble with Listening

listen and silent

I keep a poster with this saying in my classroom, among others in a similar vein, to help visually remind my students that listening is the first element in being a learning musician. We absorb and enjoy this aural art with our ears. I ask of them daily – “Is it possible to talk and truly listen at the same time?” Thankfully, I don’t teach too many smart asses who say yes, and I believe that they actually get it. Most of my students are empaths to whom I can say, “When you have something to say to me, don’t you want to know that I am paying attention to you? Doesn’t everyone deserve the same?” When we really listen to one another’s thoughts and the music we make together, it is then that we can fully experience the beauty of our work.

Even a 5 year old can grasp this. Why is it so hard to put into practice?

On the 4th of the month, I have great concern that my Fabruary may turn into Flabruary. I have not run since Saturday. I had a run planned yesterday but I chose to get a massage instead because my entire body feels tight. Even as I tell myself that I am listening to my body by not running for a few days, I feel like a loser. I fear losing the great progress that I made in Shamuary. I wonder if I am simply a weak person who cannot handle the training load I have put upon myself. You know I cannot cope with having peaked at 34.

“You know what I need to do?” I said to myself this evening. “Read my blog!” I am feeling like I have never been sore in my life and I logically know this cannot be the case. While it feels like the end of the road for my progress, I understand realistically that progress is rarely linear and it’s more likely that I simply need a bit of recovery. I put “injury” in the search box and what do you know, I have experienced the need to alter my plans more than once.

Perhaps we find listening difficult because it feels passive. We feel as though we will miss something if we don’t immediately act or speak. We feel a pressure to contribute and make our abilities known – so much so that we overlook the cost of pausing to observe and absorb. I wish my body felt like a million dollars so that I could confidently take on what is in my running plan this week, but she’s trying to tell me something and it sure ain’t “do your 11 mile run on Friday.”

I still fully intend to be fearless in 2020. My body is reminding me that sometimes bravery requires the willingness to stop, listen, and adjust.

Shamuary Sunset

By God’s grace, I made it, y’all!

The first month of 2020 is already behind us – but it didn’t end before I did my best to stick to my plans. I give myself an A on my running and a B minus on my eating. I am down a few pounds since the year started and I ran 55 miles this month. Most notably, I suddenly feel comfortable sharing the ups and downs on my race times. I am not sure what clicked in me yesterday as I was updating my race calendar, but I started scrolling through my Garmin app and updating it with past race times. I felt pride over times that once shamed me. I started running in 2013 and my calendar only goes back to 2014, but over the course of the year I intend to not only fill in my race history but detail it with the good. There is no bad or ugly because I am still here.

It is incredible that I started running when I was 28 and this year I will be 35 with no intentions of slowing down. Yes, I meant to make that pun! I want to push my boundaries and peel away the fears that keep me from being open about my abilities. I’ve been fighting trim and I’ve been fighting fat but dammit, I am still fighting.

Here’s to Fabruary! May it be a great one!

Heh. May. That’s when I turn 35.

after-every-sunset-comes-a-sunrise-followed-by-breakfast-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day-funny-quotes-online-slots

I do love the sunset – and the sunrise – and breakfast! Yay!

Shamuary Plans

From good old Merriam-Webster:

Shame (noun): A painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.

Last night (last year, heh) 3M sent me a link to a commercial she had seen. In it, a woman’s effort, or apparent lack thereof, in an intense spin class is shamed by both the instructor and the other participants. The happy ending shows the woman cycling by herself in the gym, free of the judgment of others. I told 3M that I didn’t think the premise was so bad, as much as I train alone; that perhaps the woman needed the encouragement to try harder. She did, after all, look much more at peace on the cycle at the end of the commercial.  Can peace really produce results?

I have been thinking about how much differently I train since I have been married. I moved away from my group and my training has been much less structured. While I can say the most negative emotion elicited by someone else was annoyance, I have often (irrationally) feared shame when training in groups. Yes, I intellectually understand that all sane people are focused too much on themselves to have the time to judge someone else in the moment. For me – the mere act of joining a group induces shame. To ask for help requires consciousness of shortcoming. It’s right there in the dictionary!

I have decided, for the month of Shamuary, that I am willing to sacrifice the peace of solitude for the potential to progress more. I meant it when I said in my previous post that I want to be fearless, and the only thing that haunts me more than my shortcomings is their public airing. As we speak, I am making plans to join a local running club again, where I may have to explain my two year absence, OR cope with the fact that I kept to myself so much that no one remembers me. Feeling shame for being human is one of satan’s shams. Not today, devil. Not this Shamuary!

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Hashtag Silver Lining: can’t feel shame if you are unconscious.

One More Time

I amuse my students in rehearsals by telling them the only time they shouldn’t take me literally is when I tell them, “One more time!” This is a “lie” that all music teachers tell, I say. They groan, but they know that doing it one more time will bring them closer to a result they can appreciate. One more time can be the difference between a confident performance and a reluctant one, or it can be the space between a solid, harmonic ending and a stumble across the finish line of our song.

As 2019 concludes, I find myself making resolutions – one more time. Like my students, I groan because I am tired. I wish I could have it all right in this moment, but I don’t. There are many who scoff at new year’s resolutions because of the natural tendency to allow ourselves to lapse, but that is not the fault of the calendar. Why would we fault each other for trying to be the best versions of ourselves? This is a difficult thing to do, all year long!

Even when my students need to play one more time, I make a conscious effort to tell them what they are doing well. I want them to know that celebrating their strengths and managing their weaknesses can happen concurrently AND that I love and appreciate them and their effort. I deserve the same for myself, do I not?

I am thankful that at the end of 2019 I am a tad less cynical than I was at the end of 2018. This is despite not meeting my goal of running 1019 KM, or running a 10 miler with the best Mentor ever, and still being fat. I definitely have to work on this healthy human thing one more time. Look at my 2018 running stats:

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Compare them to my 2019 stats:

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Look how much better I did! Yay, me! Yes, I’m still fat, but I did lose 20 pounds and managed to only gain one pound in November and December – no small feat, between a trip to Jamaica, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Garmin gave me this badge today:

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I am stoked that I have finished the year strongly. I tell my babies all the time that even if we have a rough start, we can have a strong ending and that counts for a whole lot. I love that Garmin has marked this badge as repeatable, for Lord willing, I will have another strong finish. The tricky bit, as you can tell from 2 years of training logs, is the middle. I want to approach 2020 fearlessly – unafraid to set new goals, but perhaps more importantly, unafraid to RESET old goals.

Happy New Year! One more time.

Front Row Seat

Yaya’s funeral was today.

I know. That was fast, right?

A timeline:

April 9 – discovery of tumors in lungs, pancreas, and liver after complaint of pain in sides.

April 12 – PET scan to determine if tumors are benign or cancerous.

April 15 – return to PCP who confirms she has cancer.

April 22 – meeting with oncologist who says the average life expectancy is 3 to 4 months, but he has seen as long as 1 year and as short as 2 weeks.

May 6 – last breath taken.

I have never experienced anything like this, and while there have been many nights with little sleep, I have seen God working in many beautiful ways. She was lucid the entire time. She only complained of nausea 2 days before she died and we solved that with stool softener, as opposed to the excruciating, debilitating pain that often comes with cancer. I didn’t anticipate that I would spend my birthday writing an obituary, but I wouldn’t have it any other way – it was truly a pleasure to ensure that she was recognized properly. Moreover, when I needed love the most, people in my life were already primed to give it to me because it was my birthday. God spared her by not allowing her to suffer and spared me the additional sorrow of having to share the day of her death with the day of my birth.

We spent her last weekend making sure all of her needs were met, summoning hospice nurses when needed. On Friday, Yaya had said to her regular nurse, “See you Monday – if I am still here.” She insisted that Pete not leave my brother-in-law alone because she felt she was going to die soon. I went back home and brought enough things for us to stay for the weekend. I will never forget the angel of a nurse that God sent both on Saturday and Sunday, who warned us that her death was imminent. Yaya was ready. She had spent the previous weekend giving us her things. She had told me she was tired and that we were going to be okay.

Pete and I each had one of her hands as her breathing slowed to a full stop at 4:10 AM. She was peacefully in her bed, just as she had wished. She knew we loved her and we knew she loved us. I stared in disbelief, as I had been in and out of her presence all week, checking for the rise and fall of her chest as she appeared to sleep. She still looked like she was only sleeping, but now she had achieved full healing.

I knew church today would be strange. I have had many family members die, but this is the closest I have been to the deceased – both for her death and in terms of relation. I always think of Gerard Manley Hopkins Spring and Fall to a Young Child at funerals – with each passing day, and indeed with each passing, my own is closer. In the busy-ness of life, it is easy to forget that we are mortal and one day will take our last breath. I hope not only to honor my mother-in-law’s life, but her death as well.

I will always cherish this ring she gave me.

Can I Get Hope With That?

I come from a very large family. My Dad is #6 out of 10. My mother is #6 out of 9. I have grown up celebrating this family reunions – some more organized than others – and now that I am in my 30s, there is a lot more gray at these reunions than I remember. Have you ever seen a sign like this at a workplace –

Days_Without_Accident Lord. I feel like someone is always either going to the hospital or coming out of the hospital. Perhaps there were never really carefree days, but 20 years ago – even 10 years ago – it didn’t feel like there was always something wrong with somebody I care about.

Adonis’s Mom went to the doctor last Tuesday complaining of pain in her chest. They ran some scans. Tumors on her pancreas and lungs. We went to the doctor two days ago for confirmation after a PET scan, and sure enough, it appears her cancer is advanced. We do not go to the oncologist for further information until next week, but her doctors have recommended hospice and palliative care for her.

I have cried almost every day since getting the news. She is 90 years old, but I am still not ready to let her go. I am not going to eulogize her here because dammit she is still making jokes and seems at peace with the whole situation, but I wish I weren’t having to think about this now – for several reasons. I don’t want her to suffer, but as long as she is doing pretty well, I want her here on earth. Adonis loves her to pieces and I’m doing my best to be here for both of them.

She even made me laugh on the way home from the doctor, who had said that one of the signs that her time is limited would be that she would be losing weight from lack of appetite.  We stopped at McDonald’s to grab something quickly. She got a quarter pounder and a large fry, and when we arrived home she shared with me and added salt to hers. I don’t know if she did that for our sake, but she ate half of the fries and half of the burger. So there it is. As long as there are fries, there is hope.

Marvelous

Lady J is on her way home!

In my previous post, I was in the air headed north, and I am blessed to be headed the opposite direction, returning to my family and work. Our flight was delayed three times, only to be moved forward again (take away – if they say to be at your gate at your original time, they mean it), leaving plenty of time for questions. What is the cause of the delay? Weather? Maintenance? Is this going to be the type of flight where I will be wondering if my affairs are in order?

At take off, of course, I smell something strong. “Oh my gosh this could be it.” The flight attendant had said we could anticipate a smooth flight once we were at cruising altitude and I am here to tell you WE HAVE NOT REACHED IT YET. The most important question remains –

Should I relax and enjoy it? 

I always get window seats because I have a tendency to get claustrophobic and I love marveling at creation. Right now, I see nothing but a wing jutting out into cloudy darkness. I’ve written in this space many times that while I intellectually grasp that there is not a method of travel more statistically safe than this, I do not find myself clenching on car, bus, or subway rides. And yet, being up here is still marvelous. It is incredible that in mere hours I can be in a completely different part of the country, visiting people that I love. How wondrous that people have worked and are working continuously to make this more efficient and comfortable. In moments, I am going to be able to hit the publish button from 35,000 feet in the air. Plus, someone is going to come down the aisle shortly with some excellent snacks.

I have always looked at the term “first world problems” skeptically, because it seems like a way to dismiss the emotions of others. As a woman of faith, I’ve had no problem that cannot make me look toward the Lord for guidance. Dammit if some bumps don’t remind me to make sure my priorities are right. These bumps are nothing if not “self-inflicted,” as I wouldn’t be feeling them if I hadn’t wanted to have this amazing getaway.

Update: THIS PILOT IS A LIAR HE SAID THE BUMPS WOULD END AT CRUISING ALTITUDE AND IT WAS DEFINITELY FAKE NEWS

person in parachute gliding above mountains

I ain’t ready.

I suppose even the turbulence is marvelous in its own sneaky way, as I have no choice but to surrender to His will and the crew’s expertise. What could be healthier than remembering how little control I have?

More marvelous travel, please!

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