What Forrest Gump and I Have in Common

gump2

It was a little over a year ago when I decided that I was going to go on a bit of a running streak. Before this I ran frequently, and in the last few years I trained for and ran both a half and a full marathon. So it’s not like I’m new to this running game.

I made a deal with myself to run for at least two kilometers every single day for as many days in a row that I could. I had no specific ‘end goal’ in mind, the whole point was just to run more.

At first it was relatively easy. I mean, I started in the month of May, when the weather is great and only gets better from there. I sailed through the summer months without giving it a lot of thought.

In mid-August I hit the 100-day mark. Whoa! 100 days. I’ll admit, I felt pretty bad-ass. And yet, I didn’t feel quite finished. I decided to continue with the streak and see where I ended up with it.

And so…I kept running. Some days saw nice long runs…10…15….even 20 km. Other days, I only hit the minimum (2 or 3 km). It really depended on how early I managed to get up in the morning and how good I was feeling. If I felt like I needed a “rest”, I would run a couple of kilometers and call it good. If I was feeling great, then I would run for as long and as far as time would allow me. I toyed with the idea of training for either a half or a full marathon, but life kind of took over and I failed to make it a priority.

Still…I ran. Some days feeling a little more like Forrest Gump than I would have liked.

That's me. Just without the  beard and the gaggle of adoring fans.

That’s me. Just without the beard and the gaggle of adoring fans.

And then…winter hit. And it wasn’t just any winter, kids. It was a particularly brutal one. Storm after storm after storm hit.

But guess what? I kept running. Every day, for at least 2 km. There were plenty of days when I thought that this was going to be “The Storm” that finally stopped me. But then the plow would come by and I would think, “Well, it’s not THAT bad out there…” and I’d lace up and head out.

Now, let’s stop and think about this for a moment. I am a self-professed wimp when it comes to the cold and particularly winter running. I run in the winter a bit, but I also struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder every year, too. Which makes things more…complicated interesting.

Y’see…exercise really helps when you’re feeling emotionally and physically low. Getting a bit of a sweat on is one of the recommended treatments for S.A.D. The only problem is, when you’re feeling tired and cranky and sluggish, really the last thing you want to do is go out in the dark and the cold and run.

As the winter pressed on and it began just beating people down, I got pissed. And stubborn. I decided that there was no way I was going to let the winter defeat me.

Not this time.

The result was some pretty effed-up running conditions, if I do say so myself.

I bring you, Exhibit A:

Uh...yeah. Those are my footprints in the unplowed street. Which street? Not so sure about that anymore. Does it really even matter?

Uh…yeah. Those are my footprints in the unplowed street. Which street? Not so sure about that anymore. Does it really even matter?

How ’bout Exhibit B?

I trudged through this out to the main street, which was cleared. This was after our biggest storm of the season. IN MARCH. I was ready to punch a snowbank by this point.

I trudged through this out to the main street, which was cleared. This was after our biggest storm of the season. IN MARCH. I was ready to punch a snowbank by this point.

And this photo, friends, perfectly sums up my feelings about this past winter:

 

Screw you, Old Man Winter.

Screw you, Old Man Winter.

And then finally the snow began to melt. Milder temperatures (eventually) prevailed. And, like our friend Forrest Gump, I kept running. And running.

And on May 10th I hit the goal that I’d had in my sites for a while now: One Year. 365 days solid of running…all outdoors…in one of the worst winters we’ve had in recent memory.

Crazy? Stubborn? Dedicated? I dunno. Maybe all three. All I know is that it’s now May 25th and I’m still running.

felt like

Only time will tell where it will take me.

This is 41

Somehow when I wasn’t really paying attention, I managed to turn 41.

Ouch.

It’s weird because in a lot of ways, I don’t feel that much different than I did when I was in my 20s. I mean, I’m definitely wiser. And a little more jaded than I was as a wide-eyed, optimistic 20-something. The world has given me a little bit of a crusty side that I’m actually grateful for. A little protective crust can be a good thing. And there’s also the inability to stay up late partying. Not that I was ever much of a party animal back in the day, but these days I’m like a middle-aged Cinderella — midnight hits and instead of turning into a shabby housemaid I turn into a whiney grump. [And folks, whatever ever you do – never, EVER feed me after midnight. It’s bad news. Just sayin’.]

It’s also weird because I’m not sad that I’m 41. As I grow older, I’ll admit that I can’t think too long or too hard about death because I’m still at the point in my life where it scares the hell out of me, despite the fact that it is inevitable. So while some days I carry that fear in the back of my mind, most of the time, I’m just happy and grateful to be alive and healthy.

Because not everyone is so lucky. So as long as I’m still here, still kicking, still healthy, I’m going to be grateful for every single sunrise I get to see. I’ve reached a point in life where I’m feeling fairly happy and content with the person that I am. Sure, there are still plenty of lessons to learn. There is still lots of room to grow and improve and do better, but at this point I’ve realized that this will always be the case. That’s how you know you’re living a good life — you’re growing and changing and rising to the challenges that present themselves to you.

I’ve faced plenty of challenges over the course of my 41 years and I can say without a doubt that learning to overcome them has resulted in me be being a wiser and happier person. Hell, at the rate I’m going, by the time I’m a senior citizen I’m going to be a frickin’ genius.

As I start my 41st year on this earth I’m not sure what the future holds but I do know that I look forward to finding out. It won’t always be easy, I know, but there will always be lessons to learn and improvements to be made.

And most of all, many, many happy memories to be made.

 

On Being a Morning Person

sunrise

The view from my front window this morning before heading out for my run. I never get tired of this view.

 

I wasn’t always a morning person.

I was once a typical teen who loved sleeping in on the weekends…the later the better, the actually. I grew up in the sticks, however, and had a loooooong bus ride to school every weekday, which meant that on Monday-Friday, I was up at around 6:00 am most days. I enjoyed this about as much as any typical teen would. But I had no choice in the matter so I sucked it up and dealt with it, living for the weekend when I could catch up on some much-needed sleep.

When I went off to university I wasn’t much different. In my first year I made the mistake of signing up for more than one 8:30 am class thinking, “I live on campus. Worst case scenario I can roll out of bed at 8:00 and still make it to my 8:30 class. This is sweet!”

Um….yeah. Let’s just say while it was a good plan in theory, in practice it didn’t quite work out as planned.

After finishing up my education I went out into the working world and again was forced to get up early in the morning to make it to work. I didn’t love it, but I was learning to accept it as simply “part of life”. Because that’s what grown-ups do. We get up in the morning and head off to work. I still made a point of sleeping in on the weekend, but I was beginning to view sleeping in as a waste of my precious weekend time. Why not just go to bed a little earlier through the week if I needed extra rest?

And then…I became a mom. And well, any parent can tell you that early mornings are part of the job description. With my first daughter in particular I spent first year of her life in a sleep-deprived haze. Lots of early mornings, late nights, and even middle-of-the-nights to deal with. My second daughter came along and she was a much better sleeper, thankfully. I’d seen my fair share of sunrises by this point and I’d come to see the beauty of the early morning.

By the time Lil’ Mo was about a year or so old, I began getting up early in the morning, before the rest of my family, to get a little alone time. During the nicer months of the year, the sun and the birds were the only alarm clock I needed. I would sneak out of bed to go for a short run around the neighbourhood or to spend some time writing. it was a good time to be alone with my thoughts before the hectic activity of the day began. And when you’ve got two young children, time to be alone with your thoughts is in short supply. I took in whenever I could get it.

This is when my inner morning person really began to shine. I quickly realized that getting up extra early = even more alone time. I began loving the quiet mornings. My love of running began to be fully embraced. Mornings are now my time for me – time to move my body, time to sort through my thoughts and feelings, time to organize, time to plan. Time to breathe in the early morning air and enjoy the sights and sounds of the world waking up around me.

Being a morning person means that over the years I have seen many sunrises. More than I can count. And I realized recently that I haven’t regretted a single one of them. Not the mornings when my girls had me up before I was ready, or the days when I was marathon training and reluctantly dragged my bum out of bed. And not even the rare mornings when I was haunted by insomnia and just.couldn’t.sleep. There will come a day when there will be no more sunrises for me — ever. I plan on seeing as many of them as possible while I still can.

 

Reconnecting

As you all know, CBG and I have had a bit of a rough go this past year. October through January were the worst months; and honestly, there were more than a few times that I was seriously concerned for us as a couple. CBG was drowning under depression, I was struggling with my own issues (namely, Seasonal Affective Disorder) and trying to keep our marriage alive and well on top of things just proved to be too much for us.

Still, we struggled along, as best we could. CBG being officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder helped a lot; he started on meds back in December and honestly, this is one of the best things that could have happened. With the exception of a small blip over Christmas, we started (slowly) getting back on the right track.

At some point over the winter I suggested that come spring, we take a trip together. Nothing major of course, since finances continue to be an issue for us, and we’ve also got a Disney vacation promise to the kids we need to keep first. But at that point, the thought of getting away for a nice long road trip, just the two of us, was just the nugget of hope we needed to hang onto. We made a plan to take an extra long weekend and drive to visit my bestie in Ontario (who I haven’t seen in person in about a decade).

And then…a mini-financial crisis hit. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say upon filing my taxes I discovered that I owed the government a big fat wad of cash.

Sigh.

It was decided that there was no way we could justify spending the money we’d had planned for this trip. We had to do the responsible thing.

However…we knew that we both still needed some time together. And time away would be even better. I remembered a cottage that CBG and I had stayed at together several years ago and when I checked it out I saw that they had an amazing off-season rate. With it being less than two hours out of town, and with us being able to pack all our own food and prepare our own meals, it was a pretty inexpensive getaway for us. And so…we booked it.

We spent three nights away at this cottage…relaxing, hanging out, watching movies and Netflix. We went for a long drive, had a mini-adventure at a lighthouse, and went on several hikes. We went to bed early and slept in. We laughed and sang in the car and were our silly selves. It was like the Sunshine and CBG of several years ago…before depression and before work stress and financial woes. Just the two of us, in love, enjoying each other’s company.

And most of all, it was us remembering exactly why we fell in love to begin with. It was exactly what the two of us needed, at exactly the right time…and an important reminder that we need to make our marriage more of a priority going forward.

We’re worth it.

us

The Challenges of Raising Daughters

When my girls were little, I was under the foolish mistaken belief that parenting got easier as they got older. I used to dream about the days when changing diapers, nursing, and severe sleep deprivation were a thing of the past. I imagined how much better life would be when they were finally able to manage their own basic needs; when I no longer had to fight with a three year old over wearing underpants under her dresses in public, or endlessly tie shoes. Moms, you know what I’m talking about.

The older my girls get, however, the more I realize how much more complicated parenting is now, compared to when they were little. Sure, I haven’t wiped a bum in many years but I’ve been wiping more than my fair share of tears as they learn to navigate the complicated waters that is pre-teen life. And I know that as they get older, life is only going to get more complicated.

More than once in the last year I’ve found myself in the middle of a conversation I would prefer to not be having. I’ve already found myself dealing with issues about sex and sexuality, how to deal with “mean girls”, what motivates men and boys and sexism in our society. You name it, I’m pretty sure it’s come up as a topic in the last 12 months. My policy is that if you’re old enough to ask a question, then you’re definitely old enough to hear the (age appropriate) answer. And while I might sometimes be a bit uncomfortable, and I may not always have the “right” answer, my aim is to always be available for anything they want to discuss. That’s part of my job as a mom, right? The good news in all of this, of course, is that they do actually ask these things. The bad news is that it means I have to answer all their questions.

But quite frankly, given the choice, some days I think I’d prefer to go back to wiping butts. ;-)

 

Twelve

Somehow, when I wasn’t really paying attention, I became the mom of a twelve year old.

It seems like just a moment ago she was still a baby. I so clearly remember those early sleepy, snuggly days and those toothless gummy grins. Days when I was literally her whole entire world.

Now when I look at her I see an amazing, strong, imaginative, independent, bubbly, innocent and free-spirited young woman. Seeing the person she is becoming fills me with immense pride, knowing that I had a hand in helping her learn and grow along the way.

In 12 years I have learned that one of the best parts of being a mom isn’t all the wonderful things I’ve been able to teach her along the way, though. It’s all the amazing things that she has taught me — about compassion, selflessness, and the value of laughter. From her I have learned the importance of both inner strength and rising to life’s challenges and admitting when I’m weak and need help. Being her mom has, without a doubt, made me a better person.

Happy birthday, Kiddo. Thank you for being you.

Kiddo

Nostalgia

This past weekend I got to thinking a lot about how far I’ve come in the past six or seven years.  Specifically I got thinking about Easter weekend, six years ago. It was during the time that CBG and I were broken up (and it really seemed like we weren’t going to get back together). I was working hard on moving on with my life — finding peace with the end of my marriage, and my still relatively new status as a single mom.

That Easter marked my first holiday totally on my own with my girls. My ex and I were split at the Christmas before, but still living in the same house. We did our uncomfortable best to try and have one last “normal” Christmas for our daughters, even though it was pretty much hellish and awful for us both.

So Easter was a Big Deal for me. There was a lot going on. I’d only been living in my new place on my own for a few months. CBG and I had broken up. I was dabbling in the dating world to try and forget all about him (and how much I still missed him). I was abandoned — rather traumatically — by a group of friends who once professed to love and accept me no matter what. To say my ex and I weren’t getting along was a massive understatement. I was unemployed and terrified about job prospects. I was struggling with finding my way a single mom. I was dealing with depression and anxiety on top of everything else.

It wasn’t a good holiday for me.

Still, I did my best to make it good for my girls. I did my best to set aside my own self-pity to ensure that they had a good Easter. One thing I do remember quite clearly, though, which was putting the girls to bed, filling their Easter baskets, and promptly crying. Crying out of fear for the unknown, loneliness, grief for the life that I’d lost. It was a lot to deal with. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how life was going to work out in a positive way for me. It seemed almost impossible.

And yet…here I am. Six years later life looks so much different. My two little girls are growing into two thoughtful, kind, intelligent, compassionate young women. I know that I have a lot to do with that. I am married to the love of my life — a man who respects me and loves all the parts of me. I have friends who genuinely care and who I can count on when life gets tough. I laugh. I feel joy. No, life isn’t perfect. And it was a long hard road to get to where I am today. But life is good…and for that, I feel incredibly grateful.

On Saturday night I wrote this on Facebook:

“If I had a time machine the only thing I would do is go back and tell the Kelly of six years ago one thing: ‘Have faith. Everything is going to be alright. Better than all right. All this is going to be worth it’.”

I don’t regret the difficulties I’ve had to endure to get to where I am. All those tears, all that heartache, all the struggle has brought me to where I am today. Sometimes in life we’ve just got to buckle down and get through the tough stuff to reach a better place on the other side. But when you do…it’s so very, very worth it.

 

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