26.2 A SERIES
Everyone has dreams. Since I was about 16 years old, one of mine has been to run a marathon. When I cross the finish line in NYC on November 5th, I’ll likely do so with a recorded time of between 4 and 5 hours. In reality though, it will have taken me much longer to get there. There are things inside and outside of us that bring us closer to our dreams. There are also things that delay us, that push us so far away from our goals they are sometimes out of sight. If we are lucky, little by little, we are often able to transform those stumbling blocks into building blocks–they become the foundation for our strength, resilience, and ultimate determination. This series aims to uncover my long journey. Each week, I’ll share the people, places, and things that have brought me to the place I am at today, and that I hope will carry me from the starting line in Staten Island, to the finish line in Central Park. Mile by mile–this, is my 26.2.
MILE 3- I Want to be the Super Aunt…the One Who Never Gives Up
When I was younger especially, I had really great relationships with some of my aunts. I would always be so excited to see them and it always felt like the feeling was mutual. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that my understanding of these relationships was a bit muted. While I always felt like my aunts loved me, I figured it was out of obligation; since I was their sister or brother’s kid and not their own, I couldn’t imagine their feelings for me could really be that strong.
Then my sister-in-law and little brother brought these two into the world…
I understand that a parent’s love for their kid is unique. Since I’ve never had any desire to have my own children, I figured there were some life experiences I was destined and willing to miss out on. Little did I know, being an aunt would be it’s own one of a kind adventure. I know it might sound strange, but, I didn’t realize I would love them so much. I always imagined that I would enjoy spoiling my nieces and picking out cool outfits for them. I knew I would love playing the tickle monster and having races with them in the pool. I just never realized that I would worry about the state of the world because it meant something for their future. I never thought a motivation for getting off my butt and trying to make a difference would come from people who watch Paw Patrol. I never supposed that a significant force igniting who I want to be and what I want to do, would be two little girls.
I feel so honored to be an aunt; I get to be one of the people my nieces will have to look up to. I think normally, I might feel pressured by this. Instead, uncharacteristically, I feel inspired. As these kids grow up, I want them to look at me and my life and know that they have choices; I want it to be clear that they get to decide exactly who they are and how they want to live. Most of all, I want them to know that no matter how long their dreams may take to come to fruition, they never have to give up on them.
It’ll be a while till the girls have an understanding that a marathon is some sort of achievement. Even then, they’ll have an aunt on their other side who’s run several marathons–including Boston. So it goes without saying that I may not be the most decorated person they have to look up to–I won’t be the fastest, or the most accomplished. But, I will be one who never quits. I will be one who struggles and still pushes forward. I will be their aunt who often takes the more difficult path because she only follows the one that is in her heart.
Beginning runners all around the world start out with the goal of taking on a 5k. For many of us, once we accomplish this distance, a spark is lit; there’s something inside of us that knows we are not going to stop there, we know we can do more. In the spirit of this 5k spark–this inkling that we can push even further, I dedicate Mile 3 to my girls. I hope they never stop believing that they can go further and that the path in their hearts is the one that is true.
MILE 4- It’s Never too Late to Change…Lessons from a Super Mama
I kill every plant I attempt to bring into our home; I can only be described as having a black thumb. I’m not always sure how to cultivate growth or even sustain life. I realize people are not plants, but perhaps this explains why I am so proud of my relationship with my Mom. Throughout the years, we haven’t always achieved the perfect balance of nurturance and sustenance, but we’ve stayed alive to learn and grow with each other, and right now, we are flourishing.
I think part of really believing in yourself is widening your capacity for change. There’s a lot of talk about fear and what a great motivator it can be, but I’m not sure if we discuss it’s more negative attributes as often. Fear is also an isolator and a freezer–it keeps us alone and it stops us from going after what we really want and need. Fear can be paralyzing. The older we get the more we see fear masquerading as other characters–fear is “too complicated” or “too far” or “too much effort”–it tells us that we are limited, that we are only capable of so much.
Sometimes I think I am one of the most fearful people on this planet. If there’s a mantra I’ve embraced more than any other I’m sure it’s feel the fear, and do it anyway. Fear is always there; it’s something I walk through every single day. Half of my nature came from my Mom. I grew up watching her clench her shaking hands around the steering wheel when we got on the expressway. I saw her walk through her fears all the time. She told me once that as a mom, she had no choice.
Things are different now. As a 65 year old woman, my Mom has all the choice in the world. While she admits that many of her fears are still there, there’s no more slinking away or sprinting through them–there’s no more “getting by”. Instead, she thrives. You know how people look back at really huge personalities who have been knocked down by life and say that they are a “shell of who they once were”? My Mom is the exact opposite. The challenges she has faced have bolstered her. Her reach is expanding, and her life gets bigger and bigger because she gives a huge middle finger to fear and bravely and gracefully welcomes in change.
When I knew mile 3 was all about staying inspired, and never giving up on dreams, I knew mile 4 belonged to my Mama, who has taught me that I can adapt when something is not working, that all is not lost if I veer slightly off course. Each day, I watch my Mom do her best to try and steer her ship towards happy. Something tells me if I follow her lead, I’ll reach the next marker stronger, steadier, and with even more hope for what follows.
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