Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Just keep swimming

So I went to swim class. I've been twice at this point now. The first time, last Wednesday, I was super nervous but I drove over there anyway. The pool they are using in the winter is pretty far from my house. The coach is extremely nice and I think if I set a goal she will get me there. So far she's taught me how to breath plus the rhythm of swimming and the correct form. I think I'm going to like it. Swimming feels nice and it's fun learning something new. Although as I'm crawling along last night trying to piece it all together, I thought man, if my (former) swimmer brother-in-law and triathlete sister-in-law could see me, they would just laugh. After practice yesterday I had a little conversation with a few of the other ladies and one asked how I liked it. I told her swimming is hard but I think I'm going to like it. Another one replied that Coach is good and she'll push you to your goals which is exactly what I need although I don't really have a goal right now with swimming. Mostly I just want to learn something new. Mostly I want to do a low impact cross training. And I want to be fit and in shape. But you never know one day I may have a swimming goal. Never say never anymore.

I have had this thought for a while. When I started all of this, my son has just turned 9 and my daughter was about to be 4. Now in his lifetime he's seen me exercise on and off but never with the dedication I've shown in the past year. I was never a runner, never a swimmer. I did 30 minutes 3 times a week of workout videos and that was it. And there was nothing wrong with that. But it didn't bring much satisfaction and it didn't last long. But this is different somehow. Somehow the running flipped a switch I didn't know I had and the results of that make me keep going back. It's nice in a way that my daughter won't remember the old me. When she grows up she'll just remember that her mom ran in races, that her mom is an athlete and she won't know that I wasn't for a very long time. But honestly I don't do these things for anyone else. I'm not trying to be an example or teach them any kind of lesson. I think the minute I tried I would fail. Because this is for me. It has to be. I need something that is just mine, especially now with everything that is going on. But if the end result is that my kids see me doing something new, being brave and learning. If my daughter thinks I've always been athletic. If they feel inspired to do the same. Then I count that as a good by-product of all of this. I know I am an example whether I intend to be or not. I'm happy that I'm a good example just not to them but to myself.

Monday, January 23, 2017


At the end of every year a friend of mine asks on Facebook what your word for the year is going to be? In the past I've chosen words at the beginning of the year only to find at the end of the year there is a theme but maybe not based on the word I've chosen. I don't know what I would have chosen in January 2016 but I think the word I walked away with in December was "grateful." Because I learned the hard way about taking things for granted and for not appreciating the simple motion of life.

So do I pick a word for 2017? I don't have any real goals or resolutions. The health goal that everyone inevitably picks is pretty much taken care of for me. I run 3 or 4 times a week and do cross training exercises at least 3 days. We eat healthy and have significantly cut out processed foods. We could cut down on electronics but I'm not worried about that. I think I learned last year that you can't predict what can happen in a year and I'm not comfortable making a long-term goal. Sure there's a race I'd like to do at the end of the year and a vacation to go on this summer but mentally I'm not going to deal with those things until I need to. I think because I don't know how BT will be in a month, much less 6 months, I don't feel like I can go too far into the future. I'm very much in a "here and now" state of mind. Do what needs to be done now.

That being said, I would like to learn new things this year. Last year I hurt my foot and spent 3 weeks not being able to run. I did other work outs, usually taking BT's trail bike out or doing workouts from the Nike Training Club app. I like cycling but I hate that trail bike. It's heavy and not fitted for me. I wanted to buy myself a proper bike with Christmas money but I needed new running shoes and then a new phone so that was the majority of the money I got. So the dream of a new bike is on hold for now. Anyway, one of the things that I wanted to do when I couldn't run was take swim lessons. I can swim in the sense that I had 5 years of swim lessons as a kid and can keep myself afloat and alive. But I'm not a good swimmer or a strong swimmer and I'd like to learn how. I looked into it at the time but BT was still working and it was about the time things started to fall apart so I never went. But now I want to. Swimming is excellent cross training for runners. It's low impact and would, I think, help me with the last 25 pounds I want to lose. Yes, I know #strongnotskinny and the scale doesn't matter blah blah blah. But still I have extra weight that needs to go and swimming is excellent for achieving a leaner body.

The problem is all mental. I am painfully shy and introverted. I hate new situations and doing new things in front of people who know what they are doing. I am very afraid of embarrassing myself. I know the truth is that no one cares. That everyone started somewhere. My first 5k took me 38:36 with a pace of 12'23" and now my personal best is 33:37 with a pace of 10'49". Still "slow" but I'm getting stronger and faster and honestly my only goal is to run a 10 minute miles someday. You improve as you go. That's how these things work. So I know intellectually that my fears are unfounded. I'm not going to be judged on not being good at something that I am admittedly not good at. That's why I need lessons and why I want to learn. I was thinking the other day that I will be 39 in a few months and how do I want to spend my last year in my 30's? I want to learn new things. I want to try new things. I can't take anything for granted anymore so I want to do it all. I want to help BT live his best life now and live mine too. We have a finite amount of time together and I want us to enjoy as many moments as we can.

So Bravery is the word I would pick. It's going to be a year of hard things. Hell, it's going to be a life of really hard things from here on out. And I want to brave for all that is to come. And it's a tiny thing in the face of an overwhelming illness like ALS but I want to take a step forward and do something new just for me just right now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Grateful and thankful

Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down

No, I think that sets the wrong tone. But really this is the story of how I learned to be grateful, why I am feeling particularly blessed, and how I figured out that even in the face of tragedy, especially in the face of personal tragedy, you can find a special kind of happiness.

It's a longer story of how he ended up there but the short version is that summer 2016 BT ended up a neurologist who sent him for extensive MRIs for a series of symptoms he had been presenting: uncontrollable muscle twitchings (fasciculations), balance issues, progressive muscle weakness. If you google these things together, ALS is one of the worst case scenario diseases that come up. But it's never the worst case scenario which is what I told him when he would bring it up. Parkinson's, maybe MS but ALS is terminal and it's never the worst case scenario anyway. But it was. Because of course it was. I didn't go to the doctor with him to hear the results. But when he called me to tell me I assure you, I did not comprehend everything he was saying. One of my friends knew that the results were coming in that day because I had been jumpy all afternoon and he happened to call right when I got off the phone with BT. I remember just sobbing into the phone and him telling me to get it together because I could not do that in front of the kids and I said "This moment, right here, this is when I get to fall apart. Because when I walk into that house I know I cannot do this. But I can right now. This is my moment to do this." And I did. I will forever to be grateful that I had someone who calmly listened to me fall apart and talk me through one of the worst moments of my life.  But then I lost it completely when I told my mom in the garage. The simple act of telling people this kind of news becomes easy but it also chips away at you. I don't know how much I've lost of myself in relaying the news over and over.

He was sent to Baylor for a second opinion. In between, we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary bringing our total number of years together to 18 thus far. Between the two appointments I was working the reference desk and a student came to ask me for help. Noticing my wedding ring he asked how long  I had been married.
Me: It's funny you ask. It will be 12 years next week.
Student: Wow, 12 years that is so long. You never hear that anymore.
Me: Yes, 18 years all in all.
Student: That is so amazing.
Me; Yes, I have been very blessed.
 Something in that conversation was a revelation to me. I had spent the better part of the two weeks since the initial diagnosis crying and bemoaning the circumstances but this brought home the fact that I had been very lucky. I don't believe in soulmates but I would say that BT was made for me. We're just a match. And it hasn't always been easy and we haven't always gotten along but I think we were just meant to be together. And to be maudlin, if we only have 20 years together, then there is no better way I would spend those 20 years.

So the diagnosis was confirmed thus ending everyone's hope that it was maybe something else. He couldn't go to work anymore and had to learn how to stay home which was not easy for the hard worker that he is. There was more falling, more muscle weakness, physical therapy, and foot brace. It felt like something new and something worse everyday. I had a moment when I thought maybe he was at a plateau and maybe it wouldn't get any worse and we could deal with this and then something happened, a fall or his left leg started to feel weaker or something and I knew I could not believe in a miracle. That it would crush me and I'd never recover if I believed and that miracle never came. Acceptance is not resignation though. I just know that I have to do what needs to be done and I want to make sure he lives his best life. And the miracle will come whether I believe or not. Because that's what makes them miracles. But I know for a fact that I am extremely lucky and so very blessed. And what gets weighed down in everyday life and gets taken for grant is so crystal clear to me right now. I could write a million words on how horrible this is and why everything sucks and why why why. On the future that has been lost and replaced with the likelihood and terribleness of being a young widow with two kids. I don't look into the future so much anymore. I couldn't even begin to plan it and it doesn't look like I want it to so I try to stay right where I am. To do what needs to be done now. To enjoy every moment. To be grateful and thankful for everything I have. That is the best place to be right now.