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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Reflections on 2017

Two main experiences from 2017 stuck with me.  When I say, "stuck with me," I mean they made the kind of impact where they keep coming back to me weeks and months later.  I feel the emotional weight these two experiences carry.  I'm grateful for these experiences.  I finished the Chicago Marathon after the worst race I've ever had, and I had a lot of difficult dental work done.  Might sound fairly benign, but hey, my life, my experiences, my blog post.  I'll try to paint a picture.

The 2017 Chicago Marathon was rough.  It was the worst race I've ever run.  It was hot, humid, and sunny.  I didn't hydrate properly in the week leading up to the race.  I was sick.  In fact, I'm still sick as I write this.  And I had bad PMS.  Everything fell apart.  I was pulled off the course into a med. area.  I walked a lot.  I ran my slowest time by a lot; no where even close to my April time or my goal time.  But instead of getting pissed at myself, which up until that point would be my response, I just wanted to finish.  I didn't want to quit the Chicago Marathon.  Up until that point, my competitive, type A, perfectionist personality would only perceive achieving my time goals as "good enough."  Somehow, on that day, something allowed me to just let go of all that and accept the reality of the situation.  Maybe it was seeing people all around me in similar situations.  Running sideways because their quads were destroyed.  Walking.  Stopping.  Sitting.  Crying.  Refusing help.  Accepting help.  Medics running down the course with wheelchairs.  But something clicked, and I was just so grateful to finish. Grateful to have the opportunity to be there.  Grateful knowing I was doing something hard, something that made life worth living.  I cried through that finish line, something I've never done before.

Sometimes the finish of the 2017 Glass City Marathon comes back to me.  Arms out, flying across the  finish line.  Jumping on Jason and screaming, "I'm fucking going!" (I'm not).  The feeling that it was (almost) easy.  The feeling of being able to pick it up in the last mile.  But Chicago comes back more often.  When workouts get hard, when I want to quit, when something in life sucks, the knowledge that I made it through the carnage gives me hope I can endure.

I can line up at the starting line of a marathon, ready to endure 26.2 miles, with very little fear.  The fear of dental work keeps me awake at night.  This summer/fall, I had an extraction, two root canals, post/core, crowns, and fillings.  I'm 34 years old.  I must have gone to the dentist and endodontist 10 times in five months.  The fear I felt leading into every visit woke me up at night.  It simmered in the background at all times.  I experienced constant, low-grade stress the entire summer and fall.  It's not that my dentist isn't wonderful; he is.  In the end, I think I was scared of the potential pain and of not being in control of the situation.  Scared of what was coming next.  And upset that my teeth are so bad, even though I did what you're supposed to do.

My sweet, dear friend Amanda came with me to a root canal attempt (visit two) and to a root canal with the endodontist (visit three).  It definitely helped to have her there the first time.  The second time, I was so high on gas I couldn't drive for a while after.  We had a hilarious time going to Babies R Us.  But the fear I experienced leading into the day I went for the root canal and extraction was the worst, and I knew I wouldn't make it through without Jason.  And here's where the learning experience came in.  I'm very self-reliant.  I do not like thinking anyone else has to worry about me or do things for me or help me.  It manifests and being very organized and detail-oriented.  If I plan everything, map out every detail, and account for every variable, no one will have to worry about me or anything I'm involved in, right?  Well, as noted above, dental work really isn't in my control.  Hell for someone like me.  So what's Jason going to do?  Sit there and watch?  It's not like he could do the damn extraction for me, and even if he could, he still had just as much potential to hurt me as the dentist.  Then, because they had so much work to do, they had a lot of stuff set up in the room and he couldn't even come in with me anyway!  Learning experience, personal growth:  Just having him sit next to me in the waiting room, holding my hand, just knowing he was in the waiting room while I was having the work done, just having him with me in the car and at home afterwards, was all the peace I needed.  It was magic.  Again, irrational, I know.  It's not like he could have actually do the dental work.  But my self-reliant brain actually allowed for the fact that, sometimes, we just need someone to be there.  More specifically, the people who love us most.  And if you know us, you know Jason's always there.  At marathons, at concerts, on the highway with a flat tire, and at the dentist's office.  And he always will be.  But some of us have hard heads and don't always fully internalize that we need help.  I hope everyone's lucky enough to have people at their metaphorical dentist's office.

More marathons and more dental work in 2018.  I can't say I'm looking forward to the dental work, but I'm looking forward to whatever these experiences present.