31 December 2011

2011 Reflections

As 2011 quickly draws to a close, I’m left thinking about this past year – the triumphs, trials, surprises and disappointments. It’s been a busy year but aren’t they all? I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone state their year was uneventful; it’s always, “it went so fast.” My year has been no exception.

Over the past calendar year, I have completed nine half marathons, two 10k (6.2 miles), one 30 mile bike ride, one 3 Nautical Mile (3.5 miles), one Muddy Buddy and seven 5k (3.1 miles) events. I covered Colorado (3 times), Arizona (2 times), Texas, Idaho, Oregon and Ireland with my half marathons. With the 5ks, I inducted my dear friend, Tami, into the thrill of a race and we even did a Muddy Buddy event together. I went from doing nothing to shooting for at least one event per month. I guess you can say I upped my exercise to a whole new level. During this calendar year, I qualified to join the Half Fanatics (http://www.halffanatics.com/) and set a goal to complete one half marathon in each state which led me to join the 50 States Half Marathon Club (http://www.halfmarathonclub.com/). I love the events. Overall, I have been successful in finishing though there have been two events in which I didn’t complete the full 13.1 miles and two events where I logged a “DNS” (did not start). Those four events haunt me at each start line and those four events are quieted with each finish line I cross. I cannot say that they are getting easier but I can say that I am able to conquer the doubts a little quicker with each successful race. My time fluctuates with my best time finishing 13.1 miles in 3 hours and 36 minutes and my worst of 3 hours and 56 minutes. I am looking forward to the races I’ll do this coming year, the places they will take me, the people I will meet and the strengthening of my intestinal fortitude that will allow me to ignore that wench in my head that tells me I’m not good enough.

It is a well-known fact that I am not satisfied in my current position at the “job that pays the bills”. My mentality began to poison me – making each day a challenge and it required sheer will power just to make it through the day. I hated my job and began to get the mentality of what I imagine a loathsome government worker would have. The Veterans who I serve were getting shitty service from me and I just didn’t care – I wasn’t happy, I felt taken for granted and I became even more cynical than I already was. I don’t know when I realized that my ‘tude had to go and that if I were going to aspire to different work, I needed to do something to make that change happen but the epiphany came and I began to make the changes needed. I enrolled in a Master’s program with Colorado State University and I made a pact with myself that I was going to give the best I had to the Veterans who needed my help because that was my job. And I HAD a job – in a time when so many do not, I could not take that for granted. This has worked for me. While I am still not happy with my job, I do give all I can and the service I’m providing has improved. Some days are easier than others but I remind myself that I am the only one who can control my outlook and there was no way I was going to give someone, something, the power over me to determine my happiness level. That job is mine, and mine alone.

In the middle of the year, my brother suffered a life-changing illness which has left him fighting to regain use of his arms, legs and throat. One of his doctors explained the event to him as a “cavernous malformation” in his spine. My father calls it a “black swan”. No matter the name, it has changed his life. He is only 36 and was in the middle of finishing up his work for his Ph.D. He has come a long way since his days in ICU when it wasn’t even known if he would survive but he still has a long way to go. His incredible drive and determination to walk again and the wit, humor and refusal to accept anything less than being able to eat, talk, walk and move all his limbs is awe-inspiring. Mason’s new life just didn’t happen to him, tho. It has also impacted my sister and my parents and everyone who cares for Mase. My parents lives have changed – dreams they had are on hold while Mason recovers – and my sister constantly has Mason on her mind. He calls her when he’s frustrated, depressed and sad and she has become his bolster – carrying his strength when he just can’t do it. Mason has an incredible support system within his friends and family but every step is a fight. This has led me to be grateful for what I have – 2 legs, that while they creak and the knee goes out, allow me to walk; 2 healthy children who are pursuing their own dreams; friends who care for me and family that I can always count on. When I am throwing a pity party for myself, I bring myself out of it by remembering that I really have nothing to complain about. I must remember that every day is a gift and that it is my responsibility as a human to try to bring a little light to someone else.

This past August, The Boy started college and moved in to the dorms. I finally became an empty-nester and I have to say I thoroughly loved it. I know of many people who, when the last child leaves home, goes through an identity crisis – what do they do now that the DNA Thieves no longer “need” them? How ever will they fill their days? People asked me that too – they wanted to know if I was going to fall apart or turn into the crazy cat lady. Well, I may still turn into the crazy cat lady but I don’t think falling apart is in the cards for me. It was my job as a parent to keep my kids but for a short time. I was responsible for giving them the building blocks on which they will build their lives and I did that. They may not be the shiniest building blocks, or the most strong, or the most sound, and I more than definitely made some mistakes along the way but I did my job. Now it’s their turn to make their life into theirs – warts and all. And it’s my job to make my life into what I want it to be. On my to-do list: travel, more races, help my friends and family, support my children, get my Master’s, start on my Ph.D., learn a language (thanks, Mom, for starting me on that one), find a job that I love, go on a date or two, etc, etc, etc. I contend that “empty-nest” is a misnomer. It’s actually a coloring book – just waiting for you to color out of the lines using the entire rainbow from the box of crayons.

My friend, Deb, says that I am a “collector of people”. She says that some people collect knick-knacks, some people collect stamps and some collect other things but I collect people. I have been thinking about that lately and I do believe it’s true. But I don’t put them on a shelf, laminate them or store them in an airtight container. My friends, my “people”, enhance my life, bring me new perspectives, challenge me and make me strive to be “good people”. They are each a treasure to me and I hope that in the coming years that they will know what they mean to me. I’d like to add one or two to my “collection” in 2012 and I really, really, really hope my friends aren’t offended by my new-found terminology.

For 2012 my goals are to continue with my racing, my education and my traveling. I’d like to bring comfort to my folks (both the PA folks and the CO folks) and I’d like to be the kind of friend to my friends that they are to me. Life is good. Strike that. Life is absolutely amazing and I plan to suck every last ounce of enjoyment out of it. May you all do the same.