10 Things I Learned From Mudd, Sweat and Tears

1. Don’t ignore the obvious.

Seriously, this sounds like it should be, well, obvious, but it so wasn’t for me. Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Mount – meaning mountain (should’ve been my first inclination that there might, just might, be an incline). Alpine – just in case I missed the “Mount” in the location name. Seemingly redundant but apparently I missed both… 1200ft of elevation gain in the first 3km and sucking wind from the oxygen difference between my sea level training and the race course and this was hammered home. Lesson learned. Next…


2. My negative committee that resides in my head CAN be silenced, and fairly easily actually. A mountain and mud and fatigue are all that are required. Who would’ve thought.


3. Self doubt isn’t as strong as self confidence.

When I dropped a laptop on my foot less than 12 hours before aforementioned race, breaking a toe, bruising my foot and leaving it bleeding, it wasn’t my self doubt that was the first voice in my head. It was the voice that said loud and clear “no big deal, you got this. we’ll just do it with a broken toe, no big deal. now get some ice. and tape.” This was a surprise to me, a welcome surprise.


4. “Team” isn’t a four lettered word.

Okay, well, actually, it is. But that’s not what I mean. I signed up as a solo race competitor for a race that is well known as a TEAM event. Why? Because I am superwoman. Not really, but I act like it sometimes. Thinking I can do everything alone and that I don’t need help. Ever. Simple lesson, I am wrong. I cannot, really cannot, boost my own ass over a 10 ft vertical wall that has no hand holds. I needed someone to help. Which brings me to…


5. Accepting help is not admitting weakness.

Ooh, tough one for me and I’m still cringing when I type this to be honest. At a point near the end of the race, on an obstacle of climbing over bales of hay, a Team member (me and another solo racer were “adopted”) offered me a hand. The first words out of my mouth were “no, I’m okay” followed quickly by “yes, thanks” when I realized I didn’t have to do it alone. Sniffle, tears…


6. Mind over matter really works.

I was shocked when, thinking back, I realized that not once – at all – did I ever say to myself “I can’t”. The internal mantra wasn’t self defeating, it was empowering. The whole time. It was physically one of the most demanding things I’ve ever done. But mentally and emotionally – I was going to do this, no matter what. And that was what carried me through, not my limping run on injuries and dead tired arms. It was will and spirit.


7. Stop to smell the roses.

Halfway up the initial climb; panting and silent, heads down and just going and one of my adopted Team mates says loudly “Just look at that view”. We all stop and steady ourselves… breath coming in and out hard… swaying slightly as we balance on the steep incline on loose rocks and dirt… and we look. And it’s beautiful. An expanse of clouds and mountain and a little lake (which we later pulled ourselves across on ropes, we didn’t know that then though). A moment of peace and quiet and admiration for where we were and just how amazing this experience was (and how flipping high up we were!). Another racer went blazing past us with a quip that it was a race and what were we doing… his loss. He may have finished ahead of us but we got that moment.


8. Laughter makes everything easier – or at least more tolerable.

During said ascent and one of the adorably perky Team mates suddenly breaks into the Lego song “Everything is Awesome!”. A moment of giggles and silly exactly when it was most needed. I’ll always be thankful that I can find laughter.


9.Mud is fluid and can get in places it should never be.

This is self explanatory and ‘nuff said, eeeeew.


10. I can do anything.

I just needed a reminder, and this was it.


On to the next challenge now. With giggles and knowledge that nothing is out of reach. And that a race course with the word “Mount” in it’s location WILL have hills. 🙂


Freedom from fear

I want to be free. A simple thought and one that overwhelmed me today. Not just that though…an accompanying thought instantly flashed that what I want is to be free of the fears that bind me.


The irony is that I’m not a fearful person… I’ve worked hard in my life to live my life not guided or limited by my fears. A childhood of debilitating shyness – shyness that impacted my actions to the point of anxiety and terror at new situations and people – bringing me to a decision in my early twenties to make a conscious choice to do things in spite of my fears…many times because of my fears. My choice of career at the time -personal trainer and fitness instructor- was one that truly terrified me to even consider. Which was part of the reason I did it. I was tired of being ruled by my fears. Tired of not doing what I wanted because of my fears.


Each fear I found I conquered and left in the dust. Scared of heights… Zip lining in whistler turned that into a thirst for more,  more adventure, more that I was frightened of but would not only do, but love.

It’s not that I’m not still afraid and scared ,  but it doesn’t stop me. Feel the fear and do it anyways.


So my shock today when I had that thought that I want to feel free … And that I don’t feel that….because I’m afraid. It was as if my Self just simply shone a light on something I haven’t seen in the past couple of years…


The deeply internalized fear that has been so buried that the surprise hit me hard today.


A fear of feeling. If I allow myself to feel good and to have joy and love and passion then that means that I also am opening myself up to the potential to feel the pain of loss and the hurt of emptiness.


I lost my son and that pain sparked a fear beyond any that I could process. The fear that I would ever feel that pain again.

A fear so big that I wasn’t even aware it was there…affecting my actions and my choices these past 2 years.

A fear that fights with my nature and my Self on the most basic of levels.


My nature, my core Self is one of connection with others and my Self. Sincere, genuine and intimate connection. This fear of feeling pain has been, and is, causing a struggle and fight that is tearing me apart.

As the haze of the initial grief burns off leaving me finally starting to move forward I’m able to see clearer.

Able to see that in some altered rationale in my mind this fear has a hold that I don’t want it to have.

That the fear of feeling pain has translated to a course of action that has brought me where I am now. A constant dance of drawing near and pushing away. My core, my Self, yearns for that connection and wants to embrace what I need and want. My fear has caused me to pull back every time anyone gets close enough that I feel that connection. So a dance ensues… With the fear , unknown and without my awareness until now, adeptly carrying me expertly away from the click… Because the most assured way to not be hurt by loss is to not have anything to lose.


So here I sit today and I ponder and I confront… And a conscious decision is made and this fear, like all the others, will fall as well…because I want to be free… And that means free of this fear.

It means letting people in and not pushing them away or pulling myself back. It means that the fear that has stopped me from intimacy … The fear that I’ll feel… Has to be faced and overcome.

The freedom starts now even, before actions. With awareness and intentions that will fuel and drive actions.


Mourning Loss

Grieving the loss of someone you love is not only painful but it’s also different and varied. I have lost a number of people in my life over the years and tonight, seeing a simple scene brought such a simple, yet harsh awareness to me.


Driving home from dropping off my oldest son at work I saw  young couple on the street. They were in an embrace, her arms sitting loosely on his hips and his hands placed on her face as they kissed. My breath actually caught as I saw them… the moment was so simple and the chemistry,love,lust, whatever it was swirled around them, palpable. It brought both a huge grin to my face and tears to my eyes. I wasn’t sure why I was crying…


I drove towards the house where my boys live for now and it struck me… it’s loss…it’s grief. Seeing the emotion and the expression of their feelings hit a spot in me that hurts because Willie has no tomorrows. Its something that is getting easier for me than it has been and I rarely actually think about it anymore but this came out of left field so to speak. It wasn’t a conscious “he won’t ever have that” but more of an internal gut feeling of loss that it took me a bit to figure out.


Losing a child brings with it a grief that is different from other losses through death. When we lose a parent or an older person in our lives who has had a life longer than ours we mourn for what was. We hold to the memories and those memories and what we have lost – and won’t have again – are what we grieve. That’s what we feel the loss of. Certainly we are sad that we won’t have them with us anymore but it’s different.


When we lose a child, depending on the age, there is limited looking back to mourn. In my case, we had 16 years with Willie. At once, a lifetime and a blink. So many years and so few. I mourn and grieve for what we’ve lost…what we had and what we won’t have again. Yet there is also the grieving of what he will never experience. That’s the grief that doesn’t seem to lessen in some ways.


An eighty year old passes away and you know that over time, your feelings of pain will lessen as acceptance settles in. That happens with the death of a 16 year old as well. I never thought it would, but it does. It’s been  2 and a half years almost and the pain, while still constant, isn’t what it was… it does get easier to bear and live with. What still stings just the same is the grief for what he’ll never have… the loss of his life that will never be, not just the loss of the life he did have. There will always be reminders of what he won’t be or do or have. So while some aspect will get easier with time, that one grief never will…and that’s hurting tonight.


The race goes on

Yesterday, I completed a mud based obstacle race; Mudd, Sweat and Tears. A course comprised of a mud, strength and endurance obstacles, a gruelling mountain ascent and a test of physical and mental will.


It was something that I signed up for 2 and a half months ago when I had a 10km road race fast approaching as well that I had set as a goal for myself. My idea was that, as I was coming off of my anti-depressants, it would be good to have some goals and something to train for.

The underlying impetus is one that goes deeper for me though and means much more to me than completing a race or two.


When Willie died, he left behind notes. Notes that tried to explain in some way what he was feeling and why he was choosing to end his life. Notes that said goodbye and conveyed his hopes for the rest of us left behind. These were personal and private and I consider us lucky to be able to have them to hold on to and to look back to.


While I keep his words to me close and personal, one of the sentiments of his note to me was that he wanted, more than anything, for me to continue on the journey of self awareness and growth that I had really undertaken after my last divorce. We had, as a family spent time talking about life choices and decisions and how we affect and direct our own lives…how important it is to live true to each of our own values and beliefs and needs. To be who we are and to love and live how we want… without compromise to our own truth in self. This was something that him and I talked about, a lot, as we spent those last few months. My tattoo of “Truth Freedom Joy” was something we discussed and picked apart… he knew the significance of my wanting to be who I am and to living abundantly and openly. His final note to me embraced that wish that I go on and be true to myself and finish what I had started with that direction.


I have, many times in the last 2 and a half years, felt like I am letting him down and like I am not honouring his memory … depression and grief have clouded my ability for a long time to live my life and to have that joy and feel again. Laughter and joy and sheer fun have been fleeting and sparse. The vast expanse between the ups and downs has narrowed these last few months though and I am starting to see that the journey I was on when he died is still ongoing… that my truth is still there… with an edge that hurts, yes, but still there.


The race was gruelling and more challenging than I thought I could handle at times – but not once did I think I wouldn’t finish – exactly how I have always been in life… confident and sure of my abilities… a feeling that has been hard to grasp since he died. Many times that it was a matter of one foot in front of the other and just going on…but there were times that the race was also fun and full of unexpected laughter… smiles and high fives and feelings of sheer joy at accomplishments and just the experience of doing things that I never thought I would, or could, do.

The race yesterday was completed with his bracelet attached to the strap of my tank top,  tucked in next to my heart  (lots of mud and crawling – not risking losing it on my wrist!)…Willie, and his wish for me to go on… very much with me every step of the way.. as he will be for the rest of my life. One foot in front of the other, sometimes impossible feeling to go on and other times full of laughter and joy. Life.

Did you know?

Almost 2 and a half years ago today and I still wonder.

There had been so many other dates that you set for yourself to end it; so many other times that you berated yourself afterwards for not completing what you set out to do.

Did you know that this time would be different? That this time you would go all the way through with it?

Saying goodbye to your little brother the night before, did you know that would be the last time you would hug him and call him your “little buddy”?

Our conversation in the car, did you know that would be the last we would have?

That night when you went to bed, was it with the knowledge and assuredness that it would be the last time that you would fall asleep?

Showering the morning of your death, folding your laundry and putting notes where they would later be found… did you know that this time, there would be no “after” an attempt.

Choosing your clothes to wear that day; did you know that they would be the last ones you would ever wear?

That this time, in a few hours, it would be your body that would be found when your family came home and not you, playing video games or listening to music…

Did you flip the calendar page to February that morning, the morning of the first, knowing that it would be the day that you really did it… the day that we would always know as the day you died?

Did you know that the next day, the sun would come up and another day would begin; and that you wouldn’t be there anymore?

Did you know all this… and did you welcome that knowledge?