It seemed a fitting song to define the months following my father’s death, and how appropriate that the band responsible for its lyrics had been writing songs defining my life for over a decade. Back in the early 2000s, Trying, by Lifehouse, evoked all sorts of emotions for me. As the lyrics suggested, I was attempting to find my way through a difficult situation that eventually led to a fall-out with my most trusted confidant — I certainly didn’t have “it all figured out quite yet,” (In my most emotional moments, I’d yell those lyrics at the top of my lungs), but I was trying… and I’d find my way eventually.
The song Broken, released in 2007, seemed to define so many experiences in my life, all the way back to that fall-out, to the ups and downs with my dad’s alcoholism, to the back and forth of seeing people I really didn’t want to see again. More than anything, I loved that the refrain asked and answered a question; Refrain #1 “In the pain, there is healing.” Refrain #2: “In the pain, is there healing?” Final refrain: “In the pain, there is healing.” The author questions whether an experience was worth it, just like I had at so many times… about so many experiences.
Broken remains one of my all-time favorite songs to this day, because it recounts the struggle but ultimate acceptance that negative can bring about positive. Aftermath seemed to have a similar message about moving on from a seemingly hopeless situation: “The worst is far behind us now, we’ll make it out of here somehow, meet me in the aftermath.”
It seemed as fitting as all the other songs had been… until I reflected on the lyrics before it.
“If we can make it through the storm, and become who we were before.”
Who we were before?
“Promise me we’ll never look back.”
Never look back?
Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” – John C. Maxwell
You may recall me saying that 2013 was the worst year of my life — without a doubt. There were moments during that year, where the combination of physical pain and mental pain truly made me think I couldn’t go on any longer. That’s why every minute, hour, day, week, and month since that year has been about moving on from it. But I haven’t just moved on from the pain and suffering of that year, I’ve used the experiences of that year to catapult me beyond it.
Had my running injury lasted merely the 8-week estimate my doctor originally gave me, I would’ve likely returned to the sport with the same attitude — just a little winded. Ready to get back out and go 15-20 miles at a time again, come home from my three-hour journeys and scarf down any food with the assumption that I’d burned off plenty of calories. I would’ve continued to work those 1.5-3 hour workouts into my everyday life, often bypassing offers to go to lunch with my sisters (I’ll just meet you out later) or other events; I would’ve continued to pound my joints against the pavement, using a heel-strike stride that left me more prone to injury. I would’ve never thought about how my attention to distance was keeping me from tapping into my true speed potential.
Indeed, with 8 weeks off I could’ve easily returned better than I ever was…
At being the exact same runner.
With a forced 9 months off, I had to completely overhaul my approach, and though I certainly wouldn’t wish my nerve pain on anyone, the struggle led to a much healthier perspective on the sport. Even when I could finally return to running, eating well became something completely separate — a way to simply treat my body well, not burn calories. As for my running form, with continued soreness, I searched different avenues to improve my technique, and stumbled across “Chi-Running.” After two incredible workshops, my core muscles now drive my runs, putting much less strain on my body and actually increasing my speed — I’ve even won a couple races. And most of all, with all that time off, I’ve learned to appreciate the ability to get out there on the road, breathe in the fresh air, and feel free from any stress or anxiety. I don’t just look different when I run… I feel different.
I could’ve taken my dad’s death with the same attitude as a short break from running, simply focusing on getting through those difficult months and attempting to return to the exact things I found comfort and security in before. Instead, I let the sadness give way to an introspective journey that has led me to so many new thoughts… and so many new places. I am not same person I was before the year 2013.
Quite simply, I couldn’t be.
You’ve gone a million miles… how far’d you get?” – Bruce Springsteen, The Secret Garden
You may have noticed it has been quite a while since I’ve blogged, and there are multiple reasons for that, from a new job I love, to travels that have taken me around the world again and again, to a new puppy that has brought even more adventure and joy into my life. But it’s also because my writing time these past few months has been devoted to knocking out a first draft of my “sequel” to And Then it Rained: Lessons for Life: a story about my transformation these past two years titled “Girl Enlightened.”
Why “Girl Enlightened?”
Because at the end of 2012, I thought I had it all figured out. My life was planned, my career path laid out in a perfectly straight line with everything else developing expectedly along with it. And then it was all flipped on it’s head. Without my dad, without my favorite pastime, without a true career plan (while higher ed remained a passion, my degree program made me rethink a long-term future there), I turned to more immediate sources of happiness within my control — traveling overseas, relocating to a new and exciting place, leaning on old friendships while making a concerted effort to create new ones — and in all of that, I became a much more settled and relaxed person… very different from what I’d always been. Under the “Tucson” sun I reshaped my attitude about nearly everything in my life, from working out, to worrying about the future (“if it’s meant to be you won’t have to beg for it,”), to the value of getting out and enjoying the most of each day. I didn’t simply look at the years beyond 2013 as a “do-over,” reviving my pre-heartache persona and trying to forget the hurt of the past; I took the opportunity to evolve, treating those past experiences as precious lessons to help me shape my future.
I love the person I’ve become because I fought to become her.” – Kaci Diane
Am I a happier person than I was even before the turmoil of 2013? Yes. But it’s not because I got through all the bad stuff as fast as I could and went back to the same old routines and vices I’d had before. It’s because I slowed down and took the opportunity to “find myself” once more, to prove all over again that I could be my own “savior,” and to develop a new perspective based on an appreciation of all that had happened to me. The two parts of my life — before and after my dad died, before and after that terrible year 2013 — are not simply divided by a date or a year; they are divided by a chasm…
One I’m proud to say grows deeper every day.
“I stuck my hat out
I caught the rain drops
I drank the water
I felt my veins pop
I’m nearly sanctified
I’m nearly broken
I’m down the river, I’m nearly open
I’m down the river, to where I’m going.”
-NEEDTOBREATHE, More Heart, Less Attack