A Leap of Faith

A leap year occurs every four years. It is easy to overlook a day that seems almost forgotten, but that day is critical to maintaining time accurately. That day is an extra day every four years–it is the gift of time. Leaping requires faith. Even in the smallest leap, there is faith that the legs will land and that the ground is how it appears. That faith and confidence carries the jumper even when they do not know what lies ahead. Moving forward and learning to live again after a traumatic loss requires leaping and believing even when what one is leaping to seems improbable or impossible.

I am taking a leap of faith that I never thought I would embrace, be excited for, or even entertain. People have become accustomed to me uttering words like never, ever, or when hell freezes over. I had walls built around my fortress because I couldn’t imagine letting anyone in. I hid behind by school books, running, work, and the fire that blazes for my military brothers and sisters and their families. I just couldn’t see beyond surviving. While I did look forward to family times and times with my girlfriends, something was missing . I just didn’t want to think about it. It was easier being that girl who just wasn’t open to someone else coming into my heart.

Most men knew not to try and the ones that did were rebuffed before a blink of an eye. I have male friends that I trust, but I just never saw them as anything other than a friend. A year ago I met someone at a running race and we became Facebook friends. Nothing else. We ran into one another at various races and while I always enjoyed talking to him, words like never, ever, and when hell freezes over relegated him to the same zone as everyone else. Something shifted at the Marine Corp Marathon, but even then, I wasn’t sure what had changed and what I was thinking or feeling. I just kept doing what felt right. At first, I had to talk myself off of the ledge of shutting down and running every day, but there came a day after months of communicating, where I had to take a leap of faith and when I wanted nothing more than taking that leap of faith.

Have I been afraid? Not now, but I was for months. I just had to take a deep breath, shut my eyes, and I had to trust myself to land on solid ground. That risk of leaping also includes the risk of fall or the risk of pain, but without leaping and risking, there is no chance of flying, discovering something beyond where I have been, and there will be no chance of possibility. It hasn’t all been easy because the doubt and fear of losing again are there, but I simply cannot stand on the side that never leaps. Even if I crash and fall, this leap has jump started my life in a way that nothing else has and I feel like I am thriving versus just surviving. My leap does not negate the love I had for Phil and I know that as surely as I breathe, he would be urging me forward into something unexpectedly good and welcome. While leaping requires faith, the smallest seed of faith can grow to the strongest tree. I will plant my mustard seed and leap into something I cannot see, but I feel. One, two, three…cannonball!

Surviving or Thriving: A Choice

Source: Surviving or Thriving: A Choice

Surviving or Thriving: A Choice

Surviving or Thriving: A Choice

For the past five years, I have learned to survive and to make it through the darkest nights. I have come to trust my decisions and I have discovered happiness through running, work, school, and the all too rare visits with my adult children. It a dull and predictable life that didn’t allow for dreams to creep in or for the wash of agony to take over. I closed myself off to any possibility of a life beyond that flat one dimensional plane. At 49, the spunky, warm, and loving person I was once shriveled and I could not entertain the idea of a life beyond business. Business it was until a friendship I have come to value started to spark into something that I am not sure how to define. That spark has brought dreams back into my life. Many dreams are filled with promise and happiness, but the night terrors have also crept into my sleep. The unexpected sleeping thoughts literally knock me to my knees. My subconscious thoughts emerge woven into the dreams of warmth and promise. I am afraid. Very afraid.

I am afraid of losing again. I am afraid that in the feeling and in the vulnerability of allowing someone in, that my life will implode again and that I will lose it all again. To understand why I fear, one must know that grief is a sneaky bastard. With Phil’s death, I could not envision a future. I no longer trusted the world I lived in. I no longer believed in myself or even in the prayers I had believed would carry my Phil home. I no longer believed that my world was safe and that was further reinforced when I was one stoplight away from the finish line at the Boston Marathon when terrorism struck again. Grief physically hurt my body and it aged me more than anything else could have aged me. Grief took so much from me that when I started to emerge from that fog and that darkness, it was easier to keep everyone at bay and to numb my feelings as a safety net of sorts because it hurt less that way and I believed it would make loss due to relationships ending, moving, or death easier.

This numbing and avoidance was never intentional. My heart had imploded and the shattered pieces sometimes don’t hold very well. I have come to value my many girl and military brothers and sister friendships, though, and in that gray area, something is sparking from a friendship. That spark is the catalyst to dreaming again—to living again– and it is more terrifying than anything I have ever faced.

Relationships do not grow overnight. There is a risk in the vulnerability. It scared me to think about investing in another person because I am afraid of additional holes in my heart if this relationship implodes. I second guess everything about myself from the story I wear and tell, to the weathered body that I call mine. I second guess my worth and what I bring to the relationship not because I think I am so broken, but because of my fear and need for transparency. Most relationships don’t start this way. I just do not have the energy to figure out motives or games. I am either enough, or I am not enough. While I know this and I believe it with all that I am, I have until now not been able to knock down my walls to let anyone close enough to discover if maybe, just maybe…

In the shadows of a blossoming friendship that holds the promise and is seeing the sparking of something beyond what I can immediately see is the fear of loss– loss brought from the normal end of a relationship, but more than that, loss through death. It literally feels like the air is being sucked out of my lungs sometimes. With the rush of dreams, I go from one extreme to another. I am like a giddy little girl when I think about how things are unfolding, and yet I have never felt older when I think about loss due to death. It isn’t logical, but it is a very real fear. I am fighting the fears, but sometimes, sometimes, the fear wins. Night descends and I want to hide.

I am toeing the line. My knees are shaking as I face the monsters of the night. Sometimes the monsters win. Most of the time I can take back my night from the cloud of fear, but not always. I may lose this one, but I know that by allowing myself to move beyond the survival mode into a chosen path of vulnerability and possibility, I am thriving in a manner that surpasses the surly bonds of survival. Afraid? I am afraid on many levels, but I recognize that the choice is now and I will lose if I shrink in fear. Might I risk it all and lose? Yes, but isn’t anything worth having worth the risk? I might risk it all and win, too. Perhaps in time I will not be so afraid of the unthinkable, but even if that fear remains, I will take the learning to live beyond survival because I am indeed looking forward instead of looking to endure.

 

Some People

Source: Some People

Some People

Sometimes people say things that take my breath away. This morning, two students from my resiliency teaching assistant class the past three days came to see me. One girl has been married for a while and she told me how lucky I was to be able to travel where I want and to have the money to do it. She went on to say that it must be nice not to have to answer to anyone and to be able to go out with my friends whenever I want. The other girl piped in and said that it must be exciting to dating new people again. Really? In what world?
I became a widow with no warning and no time to say goodbye. I had never considered a future that didn’t entail growing old with Phil. Through the good times and through the not so good times, we stood as one together. I never considered other people in my marriage and I struggle with trying to figure it out now. I wasn’t good at the social cues of dating when I was young and single and being old and single is even more difficult. I don’t play games mostly because I know how short life can be and I am just not interested in playing the games. That doesn’t equate well in the dating world.
Options? Exciting? Really? If that is what a married person wants, then why be married? My personal favorites are the married men who think that they are somehow doing me a favor. Like I told the one girl, if you are that unhappy in your marriage, get out. Don’t do it the wrong way. Having sex with someone that is not your spouse is not going to help your marriage. It does not make you a better person. So many people have told me that their spouse doesn’t understand. Seriously? That works? Not in my world. Get out if you are unhappy, but the I have needs, you have needs line doesn’t work on me. Take care of it yourself, but don’t ask me to participate in cheapening something that means something to me.
To the girl who thought it must be nice to have money to travel and do what I want—nobody wants it the way I got it and I would give it all up in a heartbeat and live in the broken down trailer on the way to Pueblo eating rice and beans forever for Phil not have died the way he did at barely 44. Think it is fun to travel everywhere alone? Think it is fun to come home to an empty house every day? Think it is fun to talk to four walls days in and day out? Hmmm. Money is nice to pay bills. I run and I travel a lot—true. It has been my way back into happiness and stepping forward. I feel like a vagabond with no place to call home. I miss the hanging out, the laughter, the friendship. I miss knowing that someone was always in my corner.
Lucky? Oh, no, not lucky. I am just trying to figure it out. I am thankful for the traveling and the running because it gives me grounding and it gives me joy. Running has given me other unexpected gifts, too, but make no mistake, this isn’t lucky….it is just learning to live again.