The first time I really noticed how fast life can change was right after the birth of my daughter. Within a week my life looked nothing like it had before. Literally completely different. Instead of being about me it was all about poop and pee and barf and diapers and well the baby. And it never went back to the way it was before because time only moves forward.
Then when my dad died – my world changed overnight. My dad had heart disease and we knew that it was coming but still – my whole life my dad had been a part of my world and then he wasn’t. It’s no fun losing a parent.
This post has very little to do with triathlon. I started this post a few months ago – probably about the time of the first funeral. But I’m picking it back up again because today I’m going to my second funeral of 2017. Before this I didn’t have many funerals to attend and those I did attend most were thankfully people who had lived long lives and there while they were missed there was a sense that they had lived a long and full life. The obvious exception was the year my dad died which was really hard.
Nothing quite puts life in perspective like a funeral. It gives me this really awful sensation that there is a finish line out there for me that I cannot see or control.
I have a lot of parables bouncing around in my head encouraging me to make each day the most it can be. But really – what does that mean? How can we actually do that? I try to balance my desire to sell my house and charge a ticket to Australia for vacation with another parable from the Dalai Lama – or maybe the Snoopy bedsheets I had as a kid:: Happiness is wanting what you have.
Do not put off to tomorrow what you can do today
I went to a funeral earlier this year. For somebody a little older than me but not much. A friend who I’ve known for 20 years … slightly more. We weren’t best friends but she’s who I called to find a good pediatrician when my kids were born. I have a bottle of wine sitting in my fridge that she gave me and I was saving to drink with her. For a short while we worked very closely together and for a long while we spoke every so often. She was very sick for a few years. But how she got sick is crazy and has a painful lesson. Not to learn from because there isn’t anything to learn. She came in contact with a bacteria that got into her lungs and made her sick. They never could figure out exactly where it came from. Eventually her lungs failed. She actually went through two transplants but rejected them both. She never knew where the bacteria came from. She got it from breathing.
I can’t think about this stuff too much or I drive myself totally batshit crazy. But we won’t ever know what the thing is that might kill us. Crosstown bus, crazy drunk driver, cancer, terrorist attack. There’s no way to know – no way to prepare and no way to prevent any of it.
So, what to do? Live my life.
Make every moment count. Dammit!
That platitude makes me laugh. So much of my life is spent doing stuff that is so banal it drives me crazy. Some days I feel like I probably drive more than most taxi drivers. This is the curse of being a stay-at-home mom. It’s really crazy. Did I really go to college so that I can drive my kids around like a taxi driver and become a really good grocery shopper? I love my kids but most days I find driving carpool pretty unfulfilling. Is this why I do Ironman? Probably, but I do also love it and it’s better for me than going to “meetings” and drinking gallons of Pinot Grigio.
This post is a little ridiculous and self-indulgent. Sorry.
Let me circle back to triathlon for a minute. One technique for surviving and excelling in long course triathlon is to think about others while you train and race. I have always done a bit of this. I’ve talked about this before that I know two people who both race in triathlon (Hector Picard and Kerry Gruson) and they are physically challenged. For years I would say to myself when a race got hard if Hector and Kerry can do this – then so can I.
This year in Santa Rosa I had a different set of motivators. I didn’t need them until the run but during the run I thought about these folks. Admittedly this would be a more impactful story if my run had been a PR but it wasn’t. Still it was a solid Ironman jog and I’m surprisingly proud of this 5:40 marathon. I thought about my friend Lourdes who was training for Ironman Texas when she had a stroke (we think – maybe – who knows) and she’s still in the hospital recovering. She would much rather be swim, bike, running than there so I ran for her. One of my last conversations with her was that she was trying for the legacy program to go to Hawaii with her family but her husband was sick and we talked about just going to Hawaii this year to watch instead of worrying about qualifying. I thought about my friend/acquaintance/team member Moira who is battling cancer and for sure would rather be on the run course kicking my butt than battling cancer so I tried to run a little faster for her. I thought about my friend Cristina who lost both of her parents this year and I cried a little on the run course for her because losing a parent is incredibly hard and while she says she’s not doing another full Ironman I’m pretty sure she’d rather be doing an Ironman completely untrained tomorrow than go through the pain of grief. Grief hurts a lot which I learned when my dad died.
I hate funerals. I really do.
Yesterday I’ll admit I freaked on my kids a little bit. I was yelling and I had no good reason. I’m not a yelling parent so they were upset. My husband was pretty sure that I’d lost my mind. My daughter is a teenager so I worry that she’ll push me away if I do this too often but I couldn’t help it. She’ll have to deal with it.
Hug your kids. Be nice to your neighbor. If some jerkwad does something stupid like have an opinion you disagree strongly with and feel the need to tell you about it – take a deep breath and let it go. The moments are long but the years fly by. Turn off the news and walk outside – or if the weather sucks just look outside. Buy yourself something that you’ll enjoy. Listen to those around you. Call a friend or a relative that you haven’t heard from in a while. Try to laugh. Maybe tell a joke if you don’t feel like laughing yourself.
Anybody got any jokes?