There Is No Finish Line

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Few things liberate the soul quite like a good run. For myself, four miles is the “Zen zone” – the magical point at which surroundings fade and stress melts. And this is how I was enticed to run my first half-marathon. Only 9 more miles, right?

I prepared myself as any athlete might. Morning and evening stretches. Ice after long runs. And caffeinated GU – the chocolate variety.

But, come race day, the obstacles weren’t at all what I expected. Amazingly, I paced one minute faster than my training (8:13) for the entire race. When the finish line finally entered my sights, less than half of a mile stood between my sneakers and victory.

In the last few miles, a strange thought struck me. I hadn’t seen another female runner in a while. But this was a public race, and it was 2011.

And, just like that, I hit my second wind and felt the release to sprint.

Only I didn’t expect what came next. I was tripped. I was pushed. I was cursed. It seemed that every man I attempted to pass in that final stretch demanded I take the path of increased resistance.

Was it jealousy? Perhaps.

Was it anger? In some instances.

Was it sexism? This one still lingers.

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The Ugly Years

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Just before I graduated high school, I got this amazing idea: chop off all of your hair (think Mandy Moore c. 2003). Ashamedly, I did not have Locks of Love in mind. No, I was entirely selfish.

I wanted a new start.

You see, hair has always been my calling card. I have never dyed or treated my hair and somehow – by the blessing of God – I maintained golden locks for the first three decades of my life.

My mother’s experience, however, would foreshadow my own: blonde until babies. And, right on time, I gradually lost my sun-kissed signature hair in the years following childbirth.

But it was impossible for me to predict the other changes that were simultaneously emerging – the widening hips, the spider veins, and the wrinkles.

The ugly years, without my consent, had arrived.

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Give Me Your Tired

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I was running late, which isn’t new, but I had never been so tardy to yoga. Twelve minutes had been forfeited, and I almost heard my body cry out in defeat when I settled into the mat.

Over the next 45 minutes, I really questioned my entire existence. My arms and legs were feeble, my concentration was muddled, and the outfit I had selected most certainly flashed the nearby maintenance worker during an inspired downward dog. Oops.

The truth is, I was unprepared for the consequences of being late. I’ve been doing yoga for years, but every session is unique, as is every teacher.

After I attempted my fourth new-to-me position, I felt my forehead hit the mat.

I’m tired of being an adult.

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Things Fall Apart

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I don’t remember the trip home.

My first late night at the office this semester proved nearly disastrous. When my senses entered shutdown mode, I faced two choices: drive home sleepy or pass out beneath my desk.

But, in the middle of deep contemplation (i.e. the edge of hallucination), I heard an echo of laughter…and perhaps reason. It was a woman’s voice.

Immediately, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness. It was 11:45 p.m. and a lady – just outside my door – would soon retrieve my trash. What a life.

My very presence soon startled her. But, with one hand on her chest, her earnest eyes challenged my entire existence.

What are you doing here?

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In Sickness

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I hold this fear that I will die before I see 35. I worry I won’t know my son and daughter as teenagers. The very thought of never meeting my grandchildren, indeed, takes my breath away.

But I am overall healthy. I run 3-4 days a week. I don’t drink. And my days are fueled by oatmeal, nuts, and vegetables.

Recently, however, I was quite ill. Six hours of vomiting – to be exact. The virus was so powerful that I found myself gasping for air between commode encounters. On a makeshift bed of well-used towels – given to us at our wedding – I laid myself down. At 2 a.m. the Earth is silent.

Until, that is, I heard a door creak.

“I think I’m dying!”

“No, you’re not.”

And, with that, a hand I know so well rubbed my back.

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Morning Cup of Job

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My struggles weren’t too different from Job’s, but my questions were not existential. I simply wanted to know the secret to feeling good. Lately, the kids had been driving me into the ground.

While Job may have reached out to questionable friends, my choice – like every toxic relationship – was one I swore I would avoid forever.

And so began my caffeinated month of craziness.

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When Hovering Hurts

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Every time I cut a watermelon, I have to ask myself an important question: Are you a helicopter parent?

My mother said it all began with my great grandmother Martha. She loved to give us little ones sweet treats, but my favorite of all was the melon she so religiously extracted the seeds from. What I remember most is her selfless smile when summer’s juices ran down our chins.

But, here in the twenty-first century kitchen, I weld a sharp knife whose blade mirrors the painstaking care I take in eliminating challenge for my children: watermelon seeds.

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder: Do I have it all wrong?

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