Do you ever have one of those moments where something triggers a memory and it just stops you in your tracks for a second? You stand there sort of frozen and think, “Oh…huh.” Well, I had one of those this morning. My friend Phebe is celebrating her 4th wedding anniversary today. When I saw her post on Facebook, I had to stop and think for a second about why I couldn’t remember her celebration. The reason is because I wasn’t actually there. I was supposed to be. I had RSVP’ed. I had bought a great dress to wear for the occasion.
But the day that her fairy tale started was the same day that mine was officially over. Worse, it was the day that I would have liked nothing more than to slip away into an abyss because I was already living in a black hole of hopelessness and despair. It was the day I was faced with a false reality that I had two choices: Stay trapped or lose everything. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that if I stayed in that place of turmoil, it would continue to eat away at my core and slowly kill me. It had already killed my spirit. Or so I thought.
Let’s fast forward to a happier time for a moment, shall we? The last month has been outrageously busy. In a good way. I took my kids on an amazing vacation to Florida for Spring Break, including a few days at Disney World. Just before that, I made the decision to go back to school. I lined up my financial aid and have everything ready to go to start classes in just over a week. I will be a certified medical assistant by the end of 2015 and to say I am excited would be a massive understatement. I said I wanted to make this year big, and I’m making it happen.
Recently, I’ve come face to face with the amazing strength of some incredible women in my life. My Grandma turned 90 last week. I was ecstatic to get the kids over to Quincy to see her on her birthday and celebrate all that she is to me. Last fall, Grandma Norma had major heart surgery and she came through like a champ. We’ve seen her slow down from the energetic go getter she was, but she is still the same witty, hospitable, feisty, and accepting, tell it like it is lady that I have tried to model myself after. She makes me proud to be a Jacobs.
Last Friday I received an email from Teri. You remember Teri, the one who completed the Ironman World Championship in Kona while undergoing chemo for Stage IV colon cancer? Yeah, THAT Teri. She had pulled some strings and arranged for us to throw Inga a surprise 40th birthday party unlike any other. Myself and a couple girlfriends were supposed to take Inga to lunch that day, but unfortunately, her chemo had to be rescheduled for that very day. So, in typical Inga fashion, she got her kids on the bus, then drove herself to the hospital for an all-day chemo session. I’m not kidding, it was All Day. She was the first one in and the last one out. But she got a surprise mid-day. A group of us formed in the waiting room and then paraded through the infusion center with all the makings of a 40th birthday party. Flowers, balloons, cupcakes, ice cream, we had it all! I couldn’t contain my joy as it overflowed out of my eyes while I watched Teri present Inga with a Powered by Hope medal, two incredible women that I had brought together. Two incredible women, with incredible stories of strength and incredible faith. Oh to have the courage of these ladies!
So, for the past couple weeks I’ve been pondering, what is it that makes a person strong? What is the definition of strength?
Webster’s definition of strength is: the quality or state of being strong. Uh, gee thanks, Webster, that’s super helpful.
So, I went to the definition of strong: having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks. That’s not exactly what I was looking for either. My Grandma is 90. She sits in her recliner most days, the only thing she is capable of moving is herself, but she is no less strong that anyone else I know.
Webster’s second definition of strong: able to withstand great force or pressure. Ok, now we’re getting somewhere…
Inga has been fighting cancer for 7 years. Monday was her 82nd round of chemo. But Ironwoman Teri said it best when she told Inga, “you inspire people around you without even saying a word”.
All of these words kept tumbling around in my brain. What does strength mean to me? The other day when I was running, I was searching for an answer to that. I was thinking about a conversation I had with my Aunt Nancy while I was at my Grandma’s. We were talking about how everyone has a different reality, but we all have hard stuff in our lives. Every single one of us. It’s how we respond to those circumstances that shows who we really are. And finally the definition that came to me was this: being strong means to have a resilient spirit. No matter how many times we get knocked down, or fall down, we continue to get back up and keep on going.
After I left work today, I went to Babler for a run. I haven’t been there in ages. I used to go there all the time, especially on the really hard days because the hills are intense and I’ve always said that there’s nothing like running hills to remind me that I’m a fighter.
Today when I got to Babler, it was raining. But I didn’t care. I got out of my car and started to run. Almost immediately it occurred to me, it was just a few weeks before Phebe’s wedding that tornados had ripped through Babler and leveled part of the park. The park had been closed for a few days for the cleanup crew to make it safe again. But the first day it was open, I was back there. That particular day, for no special reason, I ran the loop the opposite direction from the way I always do. Maybe I knew deep down, that I was about to set my life on a totally different course, I don’t know. As I neared the end of that run, I came to the section of the park that had the most devastation. There was a news crew there filming. I even ended up on the news that night.
Today’s run was a couple minutes slower than that girl a few years ago. Ok, if I’m being honest, it was several minutes slower. When I ran that day years ago, I was training on pace to qualify for Boston. And I am significantly slower now. I was physically stronger then, but at what cost? My mind and heart were a mess. Today was different. I wasn’t running to prove anything to myself or anyone else. It didn’t matter how fast I climbed the hills, it just mattered that I kept going and I reached the top. I enjoyed the rain on my face, the atmosphere, the sun on my shoulders, the reminder that I am who I am now is because the storms ripped me apart, but my resilient spirit kept going.
Today I was reminded of where I was 4 years ago, and I was taken aback. I honestly can’t believe that was the same person I am today. I look at how far I’ve come. I’ve made a life for myself. I’m going back to school. I’m an Ironman. I have done a lot of hard work and I really like the person that I am today. I am proud of the Lindsey that I’ve become. I know my purpose, which is simply, to love and be loved.
It was raining when I started, but after a mile the rain had subsided. The only water on my face was from sweat, and tears. After another mile, the clouds were moving and the sun was trying to shine. And by the time I finished, the sky was blue. It was temporary. The thunderstorms rolled in again shortly after. But that’s usually the way it goes. So I’ve learned to enjoy the sun when it shines.
Today, as I stood in the road looking at that clearing, I was amazed at how much growth had occurred, the flowers were blooming everywhere. The very thought made me laugh out loud at the symbolism. It was the blooms in the broken wreckage, the old and the new all mashed together, it’s resilient spirit, which made it so beautiful.