Slaying dragons and fighting demons

Patience, grasshopper!
Patience, grasshopper!

I am my own worst enemy…

A very good friend, Jen Greunke,  from one of my running groups randomly posted something today on Facebook.  She simply said:

“Here’s the ugly truth: there will be people in your life that will always let you down, people that no matter how much you want something for them, they can’t find the desire and courage within themselves to want it for themselves.  You can not help everyone.  Sometimes the people you want to help the most are often the most difficult.  Sometimes the people you want something for just aren’t ready…they may never be ready.  Here’s the part you HAVE to understand: just because you can’t help those people does NOT mean you’re not helping people.  There will be people who make promises, people who say they’re going to do something and then break those promises and fail on what they say.  Keep trying anyway.  Life isn’t about the hurt but about the happiness and joy in the people you CAN help because they WANT to be helped.”

I read her post over a few times and it all just sort of hit home with me.  I’m notorious for caring way too much…about people…about what other people think about me…about how I am perceived by others.  And all of this came to a stressful and explosive head this past weekend for me.  The matter is personal, but the basic gist of the tale is this…

I cared too damn much again.  And in the end, all I got was hurt.  I trust the wrong people.  I believe people won’t be hurtful.  And sometimes…I’m wrong.  I’m just wrong.  When things are said to me…about me…that are so off-base with the person I am…well…it makes me take a good long, hard look at myself and my life.  It made me really think…long and hard…about the people in my life…and what they do FOR me.  Do they lift me up when I’m down…or simply compare their woes to mine?  Do they make me smile or do they pull me further down?  Do they support me or do they hold me back?  Do they truly know me or did they never bother to look past the surface in the first place?  Yes…people let me down and people hurt me…even when I’ve done whatever possible to help them and get them through tough times.  But you know what?  I also let myself down and I often find myself thinking negatively about who I am…what I do…how I look.  It’s a never ending cycle…and it’s also very human.

This has been a pretty damn hard summer for me this year.  Starting in July, my foot flared up, for no reason…and has yet to get back to normal.  I rested it for two months…I got othodics…I got hurt by the orthodics…I put on weight…I stressed…I went swimming to not put pressure on my foot at all…I gave up my cardio sessions for lifting weights…none of this was as satisfying as the run.  It made me cranky…it made me restless…it made me angry…at life…at God…at my body.  I felt betrayed by my own body…lost.  And it sucked.

And people…very good people…some I know in person and some only via some close groups I met via Facebook…gave me their shoulders, their advice, their love.  And while the words they say didn’t always make me smile and didn’t sugar coat the situation, I trusted them.  And they helped me believe in myself again.

But demons…they are tricky.

Demons…as in the internal kind.  Those little parasites in your mind.  Those thoughts and words that make you give up and give in.  I SURRENDER!!  I can’t do this.  I’ll never get back to my racing shape.  I hate the person I am right now.  I don’t like myself.  Say what you like, but self-hatred is a hard beast to slay.  And when you grew up with low self-esteem, and as an adult still have issues with how you perceive yourself because a part of you will never see that you’re beautiful, or good at this, or strong at that…well…those little thoughts become a huge problem.

And days like today…that huge problem feels larger than life.

As I was making my initial comeback, I was doing better.  Negative thoughts were there, my speed was slower than I liked, but I was out there.  And when the custom orthodics created another big problem in my recovery and comeback, the setback was enough to bring me to tears.  I was supposed to be getting better…not worse.  How can something that was meant to help me end up hurting me?

Yeah…I had some Nancy Kerrigan “Why me?!” syndrome going on.  It happens.  Thankfully there are people in my life who snapped me out of it.  Those are the people I need.  The people who know I’m stressed out and take the peanut butter jar and spoon away from me and tell me to do some fucking yoga instead…

The go-getters.  The can-doers.  The glass is half full so drink it down and start again-ers.

I site my friends Heather Dillon and Cathy Dailey for recent events.  I was set to run the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The days leading up to the race left me with no training runs due to the orthodics being wrong and leaving my foot throbbing and aching worse than when it was initially inflamed.  All the way to Minnesota and throughout the day before the race, I kept saying I didn’t think I could do it.  There was no way I could run it.  I wasn’t trained.  I hadn’t been able to run or train.  I didn’t want to get hurt…

And they nodded and simply said, “You can do it” and “You will do it” and “When you finish…”

Positive reinforcement.  Suddenly, not running it didn’t seem like an option.  And held together by KT Tape, determination, good friends along the way, and a whole lot of prayer…I toed that start line and even made it to the finish line.  It wasn’t the race I wanted it to be.  I walked more than I wanted to, but when you can’t train to run that distance, you can’t expect to just go out and run that distance.  Lots of walking…but I had no shame in it.  I cried a lot on that race course.  And when I crossed that finish line, as sore as my body felt, I was really damn proud of myself and so grateful for so many things: the strangers on the sidelines who encouraged me when I had to walk, for my family for being there, for two of my running friends for the hugs on the race course, for Heather  and Cathy…because I might not have gotten up that morning without their encouragement and belief in me and my abilities.  Or, their belief in me…when I was doubting it all.

The fact of the matter is…we all have dragons to slay and demons to fight.  And sometimes…it’s not an easy battle to win.  Trust me.  I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions since July.  I’m still fighting my way through it.  This comeback kid was starting to fall back.  The comeback was no longer sweet…but sour.  All my fight and perseverance…was turning into just giving up and giving in.  It’s hard to fight what seems and feels like a battle that you just can’t win.  I make progress…and then fall back.  Two steps forward, three steps back.  It gets tiresome after awhile.  And you finally just have enough.

Thankfully…while I gave up on myself and my abilities…not everyone did.  These people HELPED me.  And I wouldn’t be typing this today if they hadn’t been there through all the darkness.  Some people have turned away, let me fight my own battle, but some people lift their own shields and weapons and stand strong with me…because while I feel like a quitter…I’m not going to quit.  And they know that while I might be in a dark place right now…I have a spark inside of me…and when it finally flares…well…the comeback will be complete.

Demons will be banished and dragons slayed…

As for my comeback…the process is slow.  I have the New York City Marathon in 19 days…and have yet to feel confident about my run.  In fact, wisely enough, I have taken over a week off to allow my body to heal from the strain of the Twin Cities Marathon.  My limp is gone.  My foot still hurts, but it is manageable.  And that’s why I haven’t set out to run…because…I don’t want to make it unmanageable again.  I do my ankle exercises and my foot exercises and every day I wake up hoping to feel a little bit better than the day before.

My friend, Julie Larson, a fellow runner who is coming back from surgery, posted a quote this morning on her Facebook page.  It struck home.  It said:

“At some point you have to stop making a comeback and start running toward who you are meant to be.” – Lauren Fleshman

It really just struck a chord with me.  I want to make a comeback, of course, but first…I think I need to rediscover myself.  I need to just…do this for me for awhile.  Not times, not races, not miles…but just…for me.  I let myself down, but it doesn’t mean that I have to stay down.  Time to get back up, dust myself off, and try it again.  Time to stop letting others and my own self-doubt and self-hate bring me down.  Time to learn the art of patience.  Because, everything takes time.  And the greatest accomplishments aren’t achieved overnight.  Patience really is a virtue and it’s something I’m going to work on.

The rest…will all fall into place and come together.  Yes…very recently I have felt let down, betrayed, hurt and lost.  And some of it has been due to others, but a lot of it has been because of me.  Time to refocus.  Time to keep believing…in what I do and who I am.  And when I falter, because I’m human and it will happen, I at least know I’m in good hands…with friends who know me and take me for who I am…but refuse to let me give up.

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